Washington – Lawyers for former President Donald Trump claimed Monday that he is entitled to broad immunity from civil lawsuits that seek to hold him accountable for his role inat the U.S. Capitol as they tried to convince a federal judge to drop a trio of lawsuits filed against him in the wake of last year’s violent assault.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta heard oral arguments that stretched over about five hours to consider whether to accede to the former president’s request to dismiss the civil cases or allow them to proceed.
Democraticof California, and one , led by Congresswoman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, have each accused the former president of inciting the January 6 uprising at the Capitol.
The case filed by Swalwell also named Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, Donald Trump Jr., and GOP Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama. The suit fromclaims Trump, Giuliani, and two far-right extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, conspired to incite a crowd of his supporters to break the Capitol to stop Congress from counting states’ electoral votes and reaffirming President Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
Trump, however, claims he has “absolute immunity” from responsibility in the three civil cases brought against him, and claims that his remarks outside the White House before the mob came down to the Capitol were politically motivated by it. first amendment. During that speech, Trump urged attendees of the “Save America” meeting at Ellipse to “fight like hell” and march to the Capitol building “to make your voices heard peacefully and patriotically.”
“We are not on the outer perimeter here. We are the death knell in terms of immunity because a president always has the authority to talk about whether any of the other branches can honestly or should take action,” Jesse Binnall, Trumps lawyer. told Mehta on Monday, adding that in his remarks, the president discussed congressional action – counting the votes of the Electoral College – which is the “dead center” of the president’s official duties.
“Look at the type of action that was taken,” Binnall argued, “Tal[ing] to the American people … giving a speech is something that presidents do, “noting that the words themselves are not spoken here, but the forum where they were held.
Mehta pressured Binnall on how far the boundaries of presidential immunity extend and where the boundary should be drawn, and asked if there was “anything a president could say or do in his capacity as a candidate who would not receive immunity?”
Binnall said he could not come up with an example, arguing instead that the appropriate remedy for Trump’s actions around Jan. 6 was a federal lawsuit, which was pursued by Parliament and ended with his acquittal by the Senate.
“They are not getting another bite in the apple with these issues,” he said, adding that executive immunity “must be broad.”
But Joseph Sellers, who argued on behalf of Democratic lawmakers and Capitol police officers, told Mehta that Trump was involved in “purely private acts” on Jan. 6 and therefore could not be protected from civil lawsuits.
“There is absolutely no legitimate role to play in inciting a rebellion against Congress,” Sellers said of the role the president’s immunity plays in legal protection.
Mehta noted, however, that during his remarks outside the White House, Trump addressed the integrity of the election, a “matter of public concern.” It is within the capacity of a president, he said, to speak to the public about such matters.
“Why is it not something there is something he enjoys immunity to?” asked Mehta, later pointing to a Nixon-era Supreme Court ruling banning the courts from examining a president’s motives.
Sellers explained that those who sued the president were not focused on his motives, but rather the words he said on January 6th.
The former president’s lawyers bluntly claimed that their client was not doing anything illegal.
“The only people who committed blatant, illegal acts are the actual people who went to the Capitol,” they said.
Yet the judge later highlighted that some of Trump’s last words were “‘go to the Capitol'” and questioned why that language would not be tied to the Capitol attack that followed.
“We are not talking here about any ordinary protest,” Mehta said.
Trump’s lawyers reiterated that he was “very, very clear” that he wanted everyone to act “peacefully and patriotically.”
But Mehta raised the former president’s silence while his mob, which led to the evacuation of lawmakers and a break in proceedings, questioning whether it was enough to “plausibly deduce that the president agreed with the rebels’ behavior.”
“What do I do about the fact that the president did not condemn the behavior immediately?” he asked.
Arguing that Trump’s remarks were protected under the First Amendment, Binnall said the president’s words do not “rise to any degree of violence.”
“Here you have political dialogue with very calm words in political dialogue, and then you have the reaction … afterwards from third parties,” he said. “It’s not something that ever becomes action-based based on the words at play here that are not incitement to violence.”
Vendors, however, claimed that Trump’s comments could not only be isolated to the January 6 demonstration when he “hit the drums for fraud, deception, deception” in the weeks leading up to the uprising.
“You have to look at the broader context,” he said.
In his lawsuit against Trump, Swalwell accuses former President Giuliani of Trump Jr. and Brooks for violating federal civil rights laws and DC law by spreading false allegations of voter fraud and other conduct that led to the January 6 violence in the Capitol.
Brooks, like Trump, isfrom Swalwell’s case and claimed that he acted within the framework of his appointment as a Member of Parliament when he spoke outside the White House before the Capitol attack. The Ministry of Justice has already from Brooks to represent him in the case, saying that his appearance at the convention on January 6 was “campaign activity,” and that incitement to rebellion was outside his employment.
The House of Representatives group, meanwhile, claims that Trump and Giuliani violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, a law of the Reconstruction era that prohibits two or more people from conspiring to “prevent, by force, intimidate or threaten” any official from perform their duties. official duties. Lawmakers allege that Trump and Giuliani, along with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, instigated the mob as part of a “carefully coordinated campaign” to intervene in the process of confirming the number of votes cast from the Electoral College.
Jon Mosely, who represents the Oath Keepers in the trial, told CBS News in a statement, which in part reads: “Judge Mehta is very learned and academic. I do not think one can tell how he is going to decide from the hearing because he asks difficult questions on both sides. “
In the third case brought by Capitol police officers James Blassinggame and Sidney Hemby, Trump is accused of inciting the January 6 attack with his repeated baseless allegations of election fraud. The two officers say they sustained physical and emotional damage from the riot and are seeking compensation of $ 75,000 each, as well as punitive damages of an unspecified amount.
Trump’s appearance in the time leading up to and on January 6 led Parliament tofor inciting rebellion in the wake of the assault, making him the only president to be put on trial twice. The Senate, however of the Supreme Court.
A select committee in Parliament is conducting its own investigation into the events surrounding the Capitol attack and has sought records from Trump’s White House, which sparked a legal battle brought by the former president. Trumplast month to intervene to block the National Archives from handing over the documents to house investigators, but judges have not yet responded to his request.
Monday’s hearing also comes less than a week after other law enforcement officers responded to the January 6 attack.. Two officers from the Metropolitan Police Department and two Capitol police officers claim in their cases that “Trump’s words and behavior before and on January 6, 2021… demonstrated a conscious and ruthless disregard for and a ruthless indifference to” the security of the officers.