Supreme Court Arguments in Trump Exemption Case

10:48 am ET, April 25, 2024

Justice Alito brings up the fictional SEAL Team 6 scenario

From CNN's John Fritz and Holmes Lybrand

Justice Samuel Alito, who made the presumption that a president would be protected by immunity if he used the military to assassinate an individual, noted that he did not want to slander SEAL Team Six in a theoretical situation.

The presumptive homicide scenario has been brought up throughout the case, including before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Trump's lawyer, John Sauer, continued to say that a president could be immune from prosecution for such an act.

to us Circuit Judge Florence Pan Trump cited it earlier this year to test the limits of his argument.

“Could the President order SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival?” Pan asked.

Sauer admitted at the time that he would not have been prosecuted for that crime under strict immunity, which his client asserted at the time.

But the exchange sparked a series of amici briefs in the Supreme Court discussing the relationship between the civilian head of the U.S. military and service members who must generally follow the commander's orders. Some of those summaries indicate that military members are barred from following an illegal order.

Some told the High Court that the truth was more complicated.

According to a brief filed by several retired four-star admirals and generals, “obtaining an illegal order puts service members — already stretched to the limit by their careers — in a nearly impossible position.

“On the one hand, disobeying a legal order is punishable by a court of law and goes against everything service members are trained to do,” the generals and admirals argued. “The duty to disobey, on the other hand, imposes on one's superiors a duty to show respect and not justify obeying an illegal order.”

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