On PBS, CBS Reporter Pushes Back on ‘Extreme Language’ of Sotomayor Dissent on Immunity

On the latest episode of the PBS political roundtable Washington Week with The Atlantic, host (and Atlantic editor in chief) Jeffrey Goldberg set up New York Times legal reporter Charlie Savage to discuss the “future of presidential power” after the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling defined presidential immunity and had the knock-on effect of postponing Donald Trump’s classified documents trial and his sentencing in the overblown “hush money” case.

It was no surprise that Savage agreed with Obama-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s overwrought liberal dissent, involving hysterical hypotheticals about a president using Navy Seal Team Six to take out a political opponent. Savage sounded the alarm.

Charlie Savage: ….This decision is going to reverberate. It has unleashed the presidency from any kind of inhibiting deterrent of, maybe I better not use my official law powers to break the law because even if I can’t be prosecuted while I’m in office, someday I won’t be in office….The dissent, I think, rightly points out that the situation that would meet the standard to overcome immunity, even in that ambiguous category, it will be virtually impossible to show….

But a journalistic colleague poured cold water on that liberal hot take.

Jan Crawford, CBS News: ….I think this is why I kind of reject some of the framing of this, sorry, I don’t believe it’s accurate to say that Donald Trump is generally immune from prosecution for his actions around January 6 because the Supreme Court, and I think this has really gotten lost in this whole kind of overheated, rhetoric of what this opinion said. I think it’s important to remember that the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s sweeping arguments that he was absolutely immune from prosecution for his actions around January 6th. They rejected that. And they said he can be prosecuted for his unofficial acts….

That fostered a little disagreement among the panel.

Goldberg: But, Joan, how dramatic a change is this?

Joan Biskupic, Senior Supreme Court Analyst, CNN: I actually think of it as much more dramatic than Jan does, although —

Crawford: No, I don’t — it`s a dramatic change. It`s new law, but I think that you have to remember the distinctions that the courts drew….just stepping back and thinking of Chief Justice John Roberts, who I’ve watched for a very long time, and I’ve seen hedge in many ways, in many other cases, I felt like there was no hedging. This could have been written in some ways by Samuel Alito or Clarence — maybe not Clarence Thomas, because Clarence Thomas is so much further to the right. But this just was, I felt like a really bold opinion on the part of the chief here.

After Biskupic unloaded that conventional wisdom, CBS’s Crawford took a rare turn toward finding an “extreme” opinion on the left (the media has an ingrained habit of only seeing danger and “extremism” on the right) while gently hinting the Supreme Court dissenters and their media allies may be exaggerating the danger to democracy posed by the majority ruling.

Crawford: Joan and I both have covered the court for over 30 years. And I’ve never seen that, ever, with fear for our democracy. That’s new. And I think that reflects a lot of the language that we saw this term from the dissenters whether it’s in the case involving sleeping in parks and whether that could be kind of brought down against the homeless, whether you’ve got bump stocks. I mean, we saw some extreme language

Goldberg: Bump stocks on weapons, yes.

Crawford: Bump stocks on weapons from Justice Sotomayor, which I think is really kind of a residual, anger and resentment about the court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade. I think they’re still dealing with the fallout from Dobbs and the court`s decision to overturn Roe….

The talk moved on to what Goldberg described as “the apparent polarization and the politicization of the court generally and how this feeds into the largest political trends we`re seeing.”

Dan Balz of the Washington Post suggested the Court’s rightward shift was corroding its credibility with the public.

Balz: We are in such a polarized environment that when this court moves to the right….we know that, that public opinion has shifted dramatically against the court.

This episode was brought to you in part by Consumer Cellular.

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