Donald Trump has appeared in court as he tries to dismiss a federal criminal case where he faces charges he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Mr Trump’s lawyers argued in front of appeal judges in Washington DC that he was immune from prosecution because he was president at the time of the alleged crimes.
But prosecutors argue he was acting as a candidate, not a president, when he pressured officials to overturn the results and encouraged supporters to march on the US Capitol on January 6 2021, where they stormed the building in a riot.
“The president has a unique constitutional role but he is not above the law,” prosecutor James Pearce argued in court.
Mr Pearce also called it an “extraordinarily frightening future” if a president was to be granted complete presidential immunity.
Mr Trump, who is due to go on trial in March, has pleaded not guilty to four charges: conspiracy to defraud the US; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction; and conspiracy against the right to vote and to have votes counted.
The panel of three judges, two of whom were appointed by President Biden, were skeptical that the former commander-in-chief, who lost to Mr Biden in the 2020 White House race, was immune from prosecution.
“You’re saying a president could sell pardons, could sell military secrets, could tell SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival?” Judge Florence Pan asked Trump lawyer D John Sauer.
Mr Sauer said a former president could be charged for such conduct only if they were first impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted in the Senate.
In Washington, Mr Trump walked into court, took a sigh, unbuttoned his jacket and sat at his lawyers’ table, said NBC reporter Ryan Reilly.
Mr Trump was “mostly muted during his lawyers’ arguments”, but “grew flustered” during the arguments made by the special counsel, who is prosecuting him, Reilly added.
“Trump appeared agitated at times during the special counsel’s arguments, passing notes to his lawyers on a yellow legal pad,” he continued.
“He grew most animated when his lawyer claimed on rebuttal that Trump was winning in the polls, vigorously shaking his head yes.”
Later at a news conference in a Washington hotel, Mr Trump told reporters: “I feel that as a president, you have to have immunity – it’s very simple.
“I did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing wrong.”
He also said he felt “very confident” he would win his case.