Trump’s Immunity Lawyer, John Sauer, Has Long Fought Abortion Access

John Sauer donald trump split

John Sauer, a lawyer arguing Donald Trump’s presidential immunity case, generated significant controversy when he asserted, in response to a judge’s hypothetical, that a president could not be prosecuted if he were to order the assassination of a political rival — unless he were first impeached and convicted.

With that case now before the Supreme Court, Sauer is arguing that justices should not be concerned with “lurid hypotheticals” that “almost certainly never will occur, and would virtually certainly result in impeachment and Senate conviction … if they did occur.” 

The former solicitor general of Missouri, Sauer is no stranger to the Supreme Court, nor is he a stranger to controversy. Sauer filed many briefs before the high court in his role with the Missouri attorney general’s office — including one pressing justices to toss out the 2020 election results in key swing states. As solicitor general, Sauer was also involved with an anti-abortion case that created a national firestorm, after Missouri’s top health official acknowledged his agency had put together a spreadsheet tracking Planned Parenthood patients’ menstrual cycles.

“Sauer has used the power of public office to attack reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood,” says Lisa Graves, the executive director of the progressive watchdog group True North Research. “He has also used his public office and his firm to aid Trump: attacking other states’ voters to try to keep Trump in power and making outrageous claims about Trump’s supposed immunity for the crimes the former president has been charged with.”

While Trump has recently tried to run away from the abortion issue — despite appointing three justices to the Supreme Court who helped overturn Roe v. Wade — a look at the lawyers he’s employed before the high court this term shows he’s still happy to partner with conservative legal movement figures who are deeply committed to eliminating abortion access.

Jonathan Mitchell — who represented Trump in his successful effort at the Supreme Court to prohibit states from blocking him and other insurrectionists from their ballots — pioneered Texas’ anti-abortion “bounty hunter” law, which allows private citizens to sue people they suspect of helping someone obtain an abortion. Using that law, Mitchell has represented a man who offered to drop his lawsuit against his ex-wife’s friends — he’s seeking $1 million each from them, for allegedly helping her obtain an abortion — if she would have sex with him. 

Sauer’s co-counsel in the Trump immunity case, Will Scharf, is running in the Republican primary for Missouri attorney general with major financial backing from anti-abortion activist Leonard Leo, who as Trump’s judicial adviser helped select three new justices essential to eliminating federal protection for abortion rights. Scharf recently derided “the left’s sacred cow of unlimited abortion-on-demand.”

A former law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Sauer is an anti-abortion hardliner. Within the past month, state records show, Sauer has donated $50,000 to the Missouri Right to Life Political Action Committee as well as $20,000 to Missouri Stands with Women, a coalition opposing a ballot measure to restore abortion rights in the state. Sauer is the coalition’s top donor so far.

In 2019, Sauer defended the state health department over its effort to revoke the license for Missouri’s only abortion clinic, run by Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. As part of that case, it came out that the agency had been tracking the menstrual cycles of the Planned Parenthood’s patients, supposedly in order to determine if any had failed abortion procedures.

After Missouri’s administrative hearing commission found that the state had wrongly denied the clinic’s license, and ordered the state health department to pay $146,000 to cover Planned Parenthood’s legal bills, Sauer continued fighting. He argued the state shouldn’t have to pay, and attempted to use the opportunity to pursue discovery and keep going after Planned Parenthood. 

“This is not the little guy we’re dealing with here,” said Sauer. “This is the thousand-pound gorilla when it comes to litigation resources.”

Sauer also spearheaded Missouri’s defense of a law that attempted to block Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood on the grounds that it is an abortion provider, when most of its work involves non-abortion services and many of its clinics don’t provide abortions. The effort failed at the state Supreme Court.

In 2021, Sauer filed a brief for the Missouri attorney general in a case supporting an Arizona law that criminalized abortions based on genetic abnormalities. In another case involving Planned Parenthood, Sauer sought to have the Supreme Court approve a similar Missouri law that not only prohibited medical providers from performing abortions due to Down Syndrome, but from performing abortions at all after 8, 14, 18, or 22 weeks. 

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe and allowed states to ban abortion, Sauer was part of the Louisiana attorney general’s legal team arguing that the Biden administration has wrongfully pushed social media companies to censor conservative views on certain issues, including abortion. 

Last summer, when Sauer appeared before a House subcommittee on the “weaponization of the federal government,” he offered written testimony complaining that “federal officials are expanding their efforts to censor speech on other topics, such as abortion.”

Sauer criticized President Joe Biden’s executive order directing his administration to “consider options to address deceptive or fraudulent practices related to reproductive health care services, including online, and to protect access to accurate information.” 


“This is a plain reference to the online advertising practices of pro-life pregnancy resources centers, which the president’s political allies were then attacking,” Sauer wrote. 

Sauer was describing crisis pregnancy centers, which work to dissuade women from having abortions. The Biden administration is moving to block such centers from receiving federal funding.

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