The Supreme Court just did Biden a huge favor by giving Trump immunity

Monday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to vastly expand the notion of presidential immunity was an incredibly beneficent favor for one of the men hoping to win your vote in November.

Just not the guy you’re thinking of.

President Joe Biden desperately needed something to change the conversation after his calamitous performance in last Thursday’s debate, which prompted a full three-day weekend of Democratic hand-wringing, with public and private debate about whether he should be swapped out for a more capable candidate.

What better way to interrupt that clamor than to have the court’s conservative justices – the kind of folks who came of age thinking Richard Nixon got a raw deal – declare that former President Donald Trump might not have really broken the laws that we all saw him break, if he was acting as president at the time and not as a petulant narcissist who can’t stomach being a loser.

Yo, Joe, send those justices a gift basket or something. You know Clarence Thomas isn’t turning away free stuff.

Supreme Court ruling on immunity helps Biden’s campaign

'I can do this job': President Biden defiant after debate disappointment

‘I can do this job’: President Biden defiant after debate disappointment

Sure, sure, the more progressive justices worried about the damage to democracy in allowing a former president to claim law-breaking is just part of the job. Trump and the Republican National Committee sent out email blasts to supporters, seeking donations based on what he called “a big win for democracy and our Constitution.”

Biden’s campaign scrambled to host a call with members of the news media Monday morning to decry the ruling. The very first question asked during that call was: Will Biden now “be running against the Supreme Court,” particularly due to his performance during the debate?

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Quentin Fulks, Biden’s principal deputy campaign manager, said the campaign would embrace the ruling as “an amplifier” to emphasize concerns about Trump’s despotic aspirations.

It’s one thing for a former president to randomly declare he’ll be a dictator only on Day One if reelected. It’s another for the highest court in the land to say: Go on now, be the worst version of you.

The fear that SCOTUS clears the way for dictator Trump

Fulks clearly didn’t want to discuss the debate. But, like a Supreme Court that openly snubs the rule of law, it was too hard to ignore for the folks on the line with the Biden campaign.

“Our campaign is going to continue to make the case that the stakes of this election cannot be higher,” he said. “And honestly, because of this opinion from the Supreme Court today, it just puts up a finer point on the fact that if Donald Trump gets anywhere near the Oval Office again, he will rule as a dictator.”

Nadine Seiler holds a banner outside the Supreme Court, after justices rule on former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's bid for immunity from federal prosecution for 2020 election subversion in Washington, on July 1, 2024.

Nadine Seiler holds a banner outside the Supreme Court, after justices rule on former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s bid for immunity from federal prosecution for 2020 election subversion in Washington, on July 1, 2024.

Trump, now a convicted felon in New York for covering up his 2016 hush-money payments to an adult film star to keep silent about an affair, still faces criminal charges in federal court in Washington, D.C., and in state court in Georgia on trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. And he has another federal case in Florida, where he is accused of refusing to return classified government documents he took home after his election loss to Biden.

His many lawyers will now rush to court to argue – again – that all of it was official president-style stuff and not the frantic malfeasance of a sore loser.

Biden says Supreme Court decision removes presidential limits

Reporters on the Biden call had more questions. One of them: Where is Biden?

If his campaign sees this as a day of demarcation for democracy, will he publicly talk about it? Again, this question was framed in the context of Biden’s debate performance and claims that he should be doing more in public to assuage concerns among his supporters.

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Biden had an answer for that Monday evening in brief remarks delivered from the White House, where he spent five minutes warning about the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“This nation is founded on the principle that there are no kings in America,” Biden said. “Each of us is equal before the law. No one, no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States. With today’s Supreme Court decision on presidential immunity, that fundamentally changed. For all practical purposes, today’s decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do.”

Biden called it a dangerous precedent to have a president constrained only by the limits “self-imposed” by the president himself.

We’ve seen Trump set his own rules. Things go horribly wrong that way.

The next step for Biden’s campaign

It was smart for Biden to get out there and embrace the attention to something other than the debate.

A USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll released Monday found that 41% of Democrats think their party should replace Biden as their nominee. Among the 1,000 registered voters polled, they called Trump the debate winner by nearly 5 to 1.

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I wonder whether the pollsters are out there now, dialing up voters to ask how they feel about the Supreme Court and that old-time concept of nobody being above the law.

If not, Biden should take on that task. It’s not new to him. He campaigned in 2020 to end Trump’s brand of chaos. His best argument for a second term is still Trump’s first term.

And he’s still losing the fight. Time to change up the tactics.

The Supreme Court may be the only institution left that is less popular than the presidency. Biden should hit the road and take his case against the justices to the public.

Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Chris Brennan on X, formerly known as Twitter: @ByChrisBrennan

You can read diverse opinions from our USA TODAY columnists and other writers on the Opinion front page, on X, formerly Twitter, @usatodayopinion and in our Opinion newsletter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court immunity decision helps Biden deflect debate disaster

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