Amanpour Plays ‘SEAL Team Six’ Card on SCOTUS Decisions With Obama-Biden Lawyer

On Monday’s edition of the CNN International political interview program Amanpour, liberal host Christiane Amanpour treated new, significant Supreme Court decisions with fear and contempt, using the liberal media’s trick of emphasizing the liberal dissents from the bench, not the binding rulings issued by the actual conservative majority (note that the CNNI show usually also airs later in the day on taxpayer-supported PBS, but PBS ran a rerun Monday night instead).

Host Christiane Amanpour opened the program with “Donald Trump is entitled to some presidential immunity” in his January 6th case. She then instantly blared out the minority opinion, an overwrought liberal dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee.

Guest Neal Katyal, a frequent PBS and MSNBC guest, performed the above service under the Obama-Biden administration, a partisan affiliation that was worth mentioning. Amanpour didn’t.

Previously, on the PBS News Hour, Katyal approved of the attempt (rejected unanimously by the Supreme Court) to remove Trump from Colorado’s primary ballot.

Katyal also used the hysterical Navy SEAL Team Six example.

Amanpour eventually moved on to the court’s vital overruling of the 1984 Chevron decision, which had ordered lower courts to defer to how a federal agency interpreted a congressional statute, leading in some cases to regulatory overreach.

Again, Amanpour led with the liberal minority dissent, this one from Obama-appointee Justice Elena Kagan. See a pattern?

CNN International


1:01:39 p.m. (ET)

AMANPOUR: What the American election means for Ukraine. Insight from the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London. Donald Trump is entitled to some presidential immunity. In the last opinion, on the last day of the term, the Supreme Court finally released its ruling in the hugely anticipated January 6th case against Trump.

The six to three decision says the president has absolute immunity for official acts, but not unofficial ones. The question of what constitutes an official act or an unofficial one will be kicked down to the lower court again. In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote, orders the Navy SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold on to power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune. With fear for our democracy, I dissent. Pretty strong. While Trump called the decision a big win for our constitution, the January 6th trial now almost certainly won’t be heard before November, and if Trump wins re-election, he could make the case disappear altogether.

Neal Katyal argued many cases before the Supreme Court, including as the U.S. acting solicitor general, and he’s joining me now. Welcome back to our program.


AMANPOUR: So, was this the verdict, the ruling, that you expected?

KATYAL: It was not. It was a big win for Trump and a big loss for the American constitution and our democracy, as Justice Sotomayor said.

I mean, Christiane, even before the decision was rendered today, the whole thing was a big win for Donald Trump because the Supreme Court took many months to decide this case, when normally, they would have acted much more quickly. And what that did is effectively make it impossible for Donald Trump to be tried for his alleged crimes on January 6th before our presidential election in November.

But what the decision today did, which I think was pretty unexpected, was to make his prosecution even harder should he lose the election, because it’s going to change the rules. In America, we’ve generally had a tradition that no person is above the law. That’s why we fought our revolution. And as Justice Sotomayor says in dissent, that’s not true anymore. Now, the president — a former president, is going to have a massive amount of immunity for actions he undertook while as president.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, let’s just break this down. Again, Justice Sotomayor, as you say, I’ll give you the actual quote, gives — she says, gives former

President Trump all the immunity he asked for and more. Adding that it makes a mockery of the principle that no man is above the law.

But, the chief justice for the majority writes, the president enjoys no immunity for his unofficial acts, and not everything the president does is official. The president is not above the law.

So, where are we? I mean, what does that actually mean? What does the majority actually mean?

KATYAL: Yes. So, the majority draws a distinction, as you said at the outset of the program, between official acts of the president, to which there is immunity, and unofficial acts, as to which there’s not. And so, the chief justice is technically correct in saying, if it’s an unofficial act, no person is above the law.

The problem is that that same opinion says, everything a president does is presumed to be an official act. And as they apply the official, unofficial act distinction to the allegations against Donald Trump in the criminal indictment, it’s really scary, because the first set — the first bucket of challenge — of accusations against Donald Trump is that he pressured the Justice Department to throw out the election results and to impugn their integrity. And the Supreme Court says that is clearly an official act. That is not something that the lower court can examine anything about.

And then, they go on to say, with respect to pressuring Vice President Pence to throw out and de certify the election results on January 6th or pressuring other people or the 180 minutes in which Trump did nothing on January 6th, they say, well, maybe, maybe those are unofficial acts. Maybe they’re official. That’s something for the trial court to determine, but, asterisk, they say the trial court can’t examine any evidence about Donald Trump’s motives for taking the actions he undertook at the time and deciding whether something is an official or unofficial act.

Bottom line is, Donald Trump or any future president can do all sorts of nefarious stuff, including the example you gave before about maybe SEAL Team 6 assassinating political rival, and he can just proceed it with, this is my official act as president. I’m doing this to protect our democracy or whatever he says will be very hard for a court to look under that, you know, statement by a president.

AMANPOUR: So, help me understand then, because Chief Justice Roberts, as I read out what he said, he — in that sentence is, and not everything the president does is official. The president is not above the law.

KATYAL: Yes. So, the question is — I mean, certainly the court is saying, if there is an unofficial act, you’re not immune. The question is, what is a practical matter will an unofficial act be? Even if, for example, the trial court concludes that pressuring Vice President Pence to throw out the vote on January 6th was an unofficial act, which they’d have to do against the presumption that everything’s official and you couldn’t introduce evidence of a president’s motive and so on, let’s say the trial court concluded that. That’s then going to go up to the court of appeals on an appeal, and then possibly the United States Supreme Court delaying things for another year or two.

The general way our constitutional system has worked is, you got to obey the law, you don’t get to say something is an official act when it is, you know, like, undoubtedly, you know, has unofficial personal consequences, you got to face the music. But Trump has managed to both delay his criminal trial now for months and months and months and to adopt — to force the Supreme Court to adopt a standard that makes it hard for him to be tried or any president to be tried because they’ll claim everything, Christiane, to be an official act.

AMANPOUR: So, let’s just take a few recent rulings. There’s a so-called Chevron doctrine. I mean, it’s kind of complicated and technical. But it basically says, you know, basically the whole — it puts into question the regulatory system of an administration.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered an angry dissent. She said — accusing the majority of judicial hubris and saying the majority disdains restraint and grasp for power. So, again, that is — like Sotomayor, these are very — you know, very sharp dissents for these two rulings. What do you think the motive of the majority is to keep pushing back against the guardrails and far from anybody not being above the law, actually practically institutionalizing the fact that they might be above the law?

KATYAL: Yes, I don’t want — I don’t do motives, but I do want to say that I think it’s very important to look at today’s decision in light of the other decision from Friday that you mentioned about the Chevron rule — deference ruling. And here’s what that’s basically about.

In America, most of our law is actually written, not by the Congress, which is frankly incapable of even agreeing if the sky is blue, but it’s written by administrative agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the Federal Communications Commission, or the Environmental Protection Agency. They set the rules for greenhouse gas regulation, for food and drug regulation, for how much you pay on your telephone bill, all sorts of stuff.

And what the Supreme Court on Friday did is say agencies lack a lot of the power and deference they’ve been given since 1984, when the Supreme Court, in a case called Chevron, gave them that power. This is one of the most important cited cases in of the Supreme Court ever. The U.S. Supreme Court has cited Chevron 70 times, lower courts 18,000 times. And yet, the court on Friday just blew past it all and overruled it. And today, they did something similar when it comes to presidential immunity.

And the effect of this is that we have a Supreme Court in this country that is now out of step with the American mainstream and one that has – which looks to Americans, whether rightly or wrongly, looks very partisan. That decision was a six to three decision on Friday about Chevron. Today’s decision about presidential immunity, a six to three decision with all the Republican appointed justices on one side and all the Democratic appointed justices on the other side.

That is not the way our United States Supreme Court ordinarily works. If we look back to, for example, Nixon versus United States, the case in 1974, when President Nixon was discovered to have tapes that showed criminal wrongdoing by him in the Oval Office, that went to the United States Supreme Court. Almost every justice ruled against Nixon, including the justices that Nixon put on the Supreme Court. That’s the way the Supreme Court has traditionally operated. We are now in gravely dangerous and different territory.

AMANPOUR: So, then, as we look and try to assess the future of democracy, all of that was on display during the debate — the CNN Debate on Thursday.

The future of the institutions and the guardrails. Would you say, then, something as important as an independent system of justice like the Supreme Court of the United States, are some of these institutions weakening themselves?

KATYAL: Yes. I’m very worried about it. I was just in Japan last week meeting with members of the — their parliament who are — were gravely worried even before this whole spate of decisions about what’s going to happen in November and America’s commitment to the rule of law. And I think

when you have a Supreme Court decision, like today, what it says to the American people, indeed to the world, is that the law is not going to protect us against a nefarious president. A — the Constitution’s not going to protect us, the courts aren’t going to protect us.

We have to exercise our judgment to put a responsible person in that office, someone who takes the American tradition of adherence to the rule of law, respect for our constitution, as his or her most sacred duty. And, you know, that’s what today’s decision underscores. The courts aren’t protecting us. It’s got to be up to the American people.

AMANPOUR: Neal Katyal, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

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