A federal judge in Washington on Friday ruled that three civil lawsuits against Donald J. Trump related to last January’s attack on the Capitol can be continued, saying the former president not covered by normal First Amendment or immunity protections. .
The ruling by the judge, Amit P. Mehta, means that the suit-clad plaintiffs – several members of Congress and police officers who served on Capitol Hill during the attack – will likely seek information from Mr. Trump about the specific role. He acts as a cheerleader for the chaos at the building on January 6, 2021.
If ultimately found responsible, Mr. Trump could also suffer financial losses.
Judge Mehta’s order capped a difficult week for Mr. Trump, one in which the judge in New York ruled that he must answer questions from state investigators checked his company, the Trump Organization, for evidence of fraud. Officials at the National Archives also said that Mr classified national security documents from the White House to his private club in Florida.
The lawsuits, all filed last year, accuse Mr. Trump of overlapping conspiracy charges with a number of others – people such as attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, his son Donald Trump Jr. and extremist groups like Proud Boys and the Oath. The capital’s militia – sowing doubts about the 2020 election, which culminated in a violent storm in the Capitol. Judge Mehta allowed the suits against the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, but dismissed them against Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump’s son.
Judge Mehta ruled that he would consider — and likely approve — a motion of dismissal against another defendant in one of the cases, Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama. Instead of recommending his dismissal, Mr. Brooks asked Judge Mehta to allow him to replace the federal government in his place as the defendant in the case.
In a hearing that lasted nearly five hours last monthMr. Trump’s lawyers argued that he was not sued because he exercised his official role as president when he addressed a huge crowd in Washington at the Ellipse before the Capitol was broken into. The lawyers also claimed that Mr Trump’s inflammatory speech, in which he called on the crowd to “fight like hell”, but also warned that they, as moderates and patriots, needed to be protected. protected by the First Amendment.
But in his 112-page order, Judge Mehta ruled that Mr Trump’s actions that day had little to do with the president’s usual duties such as law enforcement or command of the armed forces. and was instead concerned with something more personal: what the judge called “Trump’s attempt to stay in office for a second term. ”
“To deny the president immunity from civil damages is no small step,” Judge Mehta wrote. “The court understands the seriousness of its decision. But the alleged circumstances of this case are unprecedented.”
The judge also found that after months of creating “an atmosphere of distrust and anger” by repeatedly claiming the election had been stolen, Mr. Trump should have known his supporters would consider the speech. His expression was not merely words, but “a call to action.” For that reason, the judge decided, the address was not a “protected expression.”
Mr Trump “invited his supporters to Washington, DC, after telling them for months that corrupt and unscrupulous politicians were responsible for stealing an election from them.” ; tell that story as thousands of them gather on Ellipse; and directed them to march on the Capitol building,” wrote Judge Mehta.
Each garment is partially based on the Age of Reconstruction law known as The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was originally intended to protect former slaves from abuse by local officials but has become a means of challenging official actions on a broader scale. The suits, which seek civil damages, are separate from the Justice Department’s extensive investigation into the hundreds of people who participated in the Capitol storm and from a parallel congressional investigation into his conspiracy. Trump and others aim to overturn the election results for the week and month to January 6.
So far, Mr. Trump has not faced a subpoena from the Justice Department or the House committee investigating the Capitol riots. But Friday’s ruling has raised the possibility that Mr. Trump will have to provide documents to the plaintiffs or even sit for impeachment.
“Above all, it’s accountability,” said Joseph Sellers, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Representatives for Mr Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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Although most of the allegations in the cases come from Justice Department court records or from public information, Judge Mehta specifically highlighted some of the allegations in his ruling. For example, he wrote that Mr. Trump’s former close adviser, Roger J. Stone Jr., may have acted as a link between the former president and extremist groups.
Judge Mehta pointed out that shortly after Mr Stone posted on social media in December 2020 that he had met with Mr Trump to “make sure” that he “continues to be our president”, he also spoke to Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys at the time. The judge also noted that Mr Stone was defended on January 5 and January 6 by members of the Oath-Keepers.
Much of Judge Mehta’s ruling was spent analyzing Mr. Trump’s 75-minute speech at the Ellipse, in which Mr. Trump and his audience appeared to be engaged in a sort of back-and-forth.
Judge Mehta wrote, the speech showed “the quality of calls and responses to the president’s communications, which the president may have been aware of”.
“The complaints contain many examples of supporters of the president’s media being interpreted by supporters as a direct message to them,” he added, “and in the case of the 6 January, as a call to action.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/us/politics/civil-suits-trump-jan-6.html Judge allows civil lawsuits against Trump on January 6