Donald Trump: ASU law professor weighs in on SCOTUS' ruling on presidential immunity

Reactions continue to pour in over a 6-3 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of presidential immunity.

According to the ruling, Former President Donald Trump, along with all other presidents, enjoy immunity for official acts of the presidency, but they also noted that unofficial acts have no immunity.

The decision came as the former president is facing federal criminal charges with the 2020 election, and what prosecutors believe was his role of conspiring to overturn the results and cling to power.

"It’s a new question. It’s never been thought of before," said Arizona State University law professor Paul Bender, who underscored the unprecedented nature of the decision.

"Trump was looking for a decision that would say ‘hey, you’re not responsible for anything that happened while you were President.’ He didn’t get that," Bender said. "I guess the United States was hoping that they would say there’s no immunity for anything, and we could treat him like a normal person. They didn’t get that either."

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote on behalf of the court's conservative majority, concluded the former President is entitled to either absolute or presumptive immunity in official acts.

"Under our system of separated powers, the President may not be prosecuted for exercising his core constitutional powers," a portion of the ruling reads. "The President enjoys no immunity for his unofficial acts, and not everything the President does is official. The President is not above the law."

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not mince words, calling the majority decision a "mockery of the constitution," adding it creates a "king above the law."

The decision makes it nearly impossible for Trump’s trial to occur before the November election, with hearings and possible appeals. If Trump wins the election, he may look to have the case dismissed or pardon himself.

Republicans are cheering the decision, while Democrats are decrying it, and constitutional law scholars are still piecing together its implications and scope.

Bender, who has argued in front of the Supreme Court, points out that there are still a lot of technical questions that remain unresolved in the opinion. However, he feels the court is taking the right approach to a novel, complex constitutional question.

"I understand why the court is reluctant to do that, and wants to make sure that it has all the facts before jumping into a conclusion. They want to take their time, and that seems to be perfectly appropriate, but it’s going to frustrate the people who want an answer right away," said Bender.

Not everyone, however, agrees.

"What it says is that Presidents have a scope beyond anything that the Framers intended," said lawyer and constitutional historian Robert J. McWhirter.

McWhirter worries about the decision’s implications.

"The scope of ‘official acts’ is not defined, but what they are saying is what needs to be done to show that it’s not an official act is very high. It has shifted the burden of proof to the prosecution to show that an act is criminal, and that it was not a part of official duties, rather than the part of the former President or President to do so," said McWhirter.

Now, the lower court is faced with parsing through what constitutes an official or private act in Trumps’ case.

"It’s a monstrous thing," said Bender. "It’s going to be full of contentious litigation. It’s going to go on for a long period of time."