‘I’m scared as s–t’: Justice Jackson, Black leaders explain why Supreme Court granting Trump immunity is dangerous

“That is a danger, not only to the African-American community – it is a danger to this society as a whole,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson told theGrio.

People hold anti-Trump signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on July 1, 2024, in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump on Monday hailed a "big win" for democracy after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that presidents have presumptive immunity for official acts — a decision set to delay his trial for conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss. (Photo by DREW ANGERER/AFP via Getty Images)

Elected officials and advocates are decrying the Supreme Court’s Monday ruling granting former President Donald Trump some level of immunity for undetermined “official acts” in his federal criminal case for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election and the subsequent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection executed by a mob of his supporters at the U.S. Capitol.

Hours after the conservative majority ruled that, as president, Trump could be subject to certain immunity privileges in a case where he faces four criminal indictments, NAACP President Derrick Johnson told theGrio that America is in a “crisis.” The civil rights leader argued that the ruling has made America “something less than a democracy,” or at worst, a “dictatorship.”

“That is a danger, not only to the African-American community – it is a danger to this society as a whole,” said Johnson.

The Biden-Harris campaign quickly reacted to the ruling, including holding a press call with one of the campaign’s top Black senior officials, Principal Deputy Campaign Manager Quentin Fulks. He was joined by U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., and former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn. 

“I’m scared as s–t,” Fulks told reporters on Monday. “I think Americans are scared and should be scared of what Donald Trump will do.” 

As liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted in her dissent to Monday’s ruling: “…a hypothetical President who admits to having ordered the assassinations of his political rivals or critics … or one who indisputably instigates an unsuccessful coup … has a fair shot at getting immunity under the majority’s [ruling]…”

Fellow liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her own dissent, said the conservative majority’s ruling now ensures that “in every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump walks offstage after giving remarks at a rally at Greenbrier Farms on June 28, 2024, in Chesapeake, Virginia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

She, too, warned that under the premise of the court’s ruling, a president would be hypothetically immune from ordering the assassination of a political rival – more specifically, ordering the “Navy’s Seal Team 6” to do so.

“When Sotomayor put that into her decision, she wasn’t just saying this. This was argued by [Trump’s] attorneys. So this is not hypothetical for me,” Congresswoman Crockett told reporters of Sotomayor’s dissent during the Biden-Harris campaign call.

The Texas lawmaker said she feels the ruling from the Supreme Court, as well as others from U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over Trump’s criminal documents case and accused of showing partisan favor to Trump, reflect a departure of the federal government’s “checks and balances.”

“They seemingly are operating just in service to him, which is what Project 2025 talks about,” said Crockett.

Project 2025 is a conservative playbook that outlines policy actions in a potential second Trump administration, including politicizing the Department of Justice. Similarly, on the campaign trail, Trump vowed to use the agency to send federal agents or troops to cities to clamp down on crime, including cities with large Black populations like Chicago and New York City.

NAACP President Johnson said the combination of the high court’s actions and Trump’s statements presents an “existential crisis” for the country.

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“He’s already proposing Project 2025, which will undermine the rule of law as we know it, and now has been backed up by a Supreme Court who are making political decisions that’s not wholly based on the Constitution,” he told theGrio.

Johnson said the role of Black voters and all voters will be critical in November’s election to ensure Trump does not retain power at risk of what he sees as the partisanship of the court’s conservative majority being “cemented” in the next presidential term. He also pointed out that three new appointments to the high court could “potentially” be named in the event the older justices decide to retire or are unable to carry out their lifetime appointments. 

The court has already made controversial rulings this session that stand to have implications for Black and brown communities, including allowing the criminalization of homelessness and stripping away the executive branch’s ability to enforce regulations that could impact areas like civil rights, the economy, and environmental justice.

“This election is whether or not we have a functioning democracy or something less. And if it’s something less, the African-American community will be under threat,” he argued.

Fulks, of the Biden-Harris campaign, said that President Joe Biden will be on the campaign trail “talking about the reasons why Americans should be scared of Donald Trump, as he has been for months.” He added, “This Supreme Court opinion today just amplified that.”