Lawsuits accusing Trump of instigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 can go forward, according to the judge’s rules.

In a searing 112-page opinion that repeatedly and extensively quoted the former president’s own public statements, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta declined to dismiss three lawsuits against Trump brought by members of the House Democrats and police officers seeking damages for physical and emotional injuries. they suffered during the attack. The judge did or said he would drop as defendants Donald Trump Jr., attorney Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who joined Trump in addressing attendees at the Ellipse before they marched to the Capitol that day.

However, Mehta said Trump’s own words and conduct in falsely alleging a ‘stolen’ election were not immune to separation of powers grounds, as they only served his personal purpose of retaining office. , going beyond the “outer perimeter” of a president’s official responsibilities. .

“The President’s actions here are unrelated to his duties of faithful law enforcement, conduct of foreign affairs, command of the armed forces, or management of the executive. They are entirely about his efforts to stay in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts,” Mehta wrote.

At the same time, the judge said, Trump would have gone beyond simply trying to pressure state and local officials, Congress or Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the legal election results. Instead, he raised the threat of violence, culminating in the attack that delayed Congress’ certification of President Biden’s election victory, led to assaults on nearly 140 officers and contributed to five deaths.

Trump’s statements in the weeks, hours and minutes leading up to the Capitol attack were likely “an implicit call for impending violence or lawlessness,” the judge said.

“He called on thousands of people ‘to fight like hell’ immediately before leading an unauthorized march to the Capitol, where the targets of their wrath were at work, knowing that militias and others among the crowd were prone to violence,” the judge said.

Trump’s role “was to encourage the use of force, intimidation, or threat to prevent certification from proceeding, and organized groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers would perform the required acts,” said the judge. Such a “tacit agreement” is made all the more plausible by Trump’s response to the Capitol breach, when he attacked Pence via Twitter for not having the courage to block certification after rioters broke out. in the building.

“It’s reasonable to infer that the president would have understood the impact of his tweet, since he had earlier told rally-goers that, in fact, the vice president was the last line of defense against a stolen election result.” , wrote Mehta.

The decision by Mehta, a President Barack Obama appointee who is also presiding over the seditious conspiracy lawsuits against Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, was a defeat for the former president, who decided to dismiss three civil lawsuits: one by Rep. Karen Bass (D-California) and nine other lawmakers; a die Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California), former prosecutor and Trump impeachment official; and another from Capitol Police officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby. The original lawsuit was filed by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), who left his case in July after becoming co-chairman of the House committee on Jan. 6.

The notice allows for further investigation, including depositions and requests for documents from the former president and other co-defendants, which include members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. The discovery could prove that such connections “are important,” Mehta wrote.

Trump attorney Jesse Binnall during arguments last month called the lawsuits “full of propaganda designed to achieve political rather than legal goals.” Binnall urged the court to deny House Democrats the ability to “score against a political rival at the expense” of the Constitution’s fundamental principles of separation of powers and free speech.

Separately, Giuliani’s defense called her “too far-fetched and outlandish” to believe that the plaintiffs would succeed in linking him and Trump to “a vast conspiracy to engineer the attack on the Capitol.” Attorney Joseph D. Sibley IV argued that Giuliani’s call to Trump supporters that day for a “trial by combat” was clearly hyperbolic and not literal, that he immediately condemned the riots as “shameful ‘ and that he never referred to a march on the Capitol.

Mehta in his ruling acknowledged that he “put Giuliani in a different position.” Judge dropped Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr. as defendants in Swalwell’s trial, and said he would do the same for Brooks, saying their alleged actions were limited to less inflammatory statements at a fiery rally that morning at the White House Ellipse.

At the rally, Brooks, the first congressman to say he would challenge the Electoral College tally certifying Biden’s victory, cited bloodshed and asked the crowd, “Are you willing to do this? what does it take to fight for America?

The House lawmakers’ legal team, led by Joseph M. Sellers and joined by NAACP lawyers, argued, concurring with Swalwell’s lead attorney, Phil Andonian, that Trump and others instigated and facilitated that day’s attack in violation of the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan. Act, which prohibits violent interference with the constitutional duties of Congress. Police have claimed that Trump and others should also be legally responsible for the injuries suffered by lawmakers and police during the deadly hours-long raid on the Capitol by Trump supporters angered by his baseless allegations of voter fraud.

In seeking his dismissal, Trump’s defense argued that Trump’s statements at the Jan. 6 rally and all other related tweets and public statements fall within his constitutional duty to ensure that the country’s election laws are faithfully enforced. and that the president’s use of the bullying pulpit to speak to the American people “freely and frankly on matters of public interest.”

Mehta called the argument “grossly misleading,” noting that the federal government’s role is to ensure election integrity through litigation, and that a president has absolutely no constitutional or statutory role in counting. or certification of electoral college results.

Statements by a president are not immune from civil suit simply because they are spoken by a president, Mehta added.


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