Presidential Immunity

Justice Sonia Sotomayor waxed hysterical in her dissent to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Presidential immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes committed while in office.

Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

Maybe some broader context is in order.

Consider, for instance, our individual right to commit piracy on the high seas, so long as that, too, is done with the express permission of our Federal government (the immunity parallel is that the sovereign, We the People, have granted a considerable measure of permission to a President by electing him to that office).

The Federal government’s authority to authorize piracy by us private citizens exists in so many words in Article I, Section 8, of our Constitution:

To…grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal….

It’s instructive that that clause comes immediately on the heels of this clause:

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas….

It’s hard to get any clearer than that: our Constitution authorizes our Congress to define what piracy is and then to authorize us private citizens to commit what otherwise would be that piracy by sailing as privateers under Congress-issued Letters of Marque.

Immune, immune, immune, indeed.


H/t AJ Jacobs, writing in The Free Press

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