A federal appeals court has determined that Donald Trump can face a civil lawsuit for his alleged involvement in inciting the Capitol Hill riot in January 2021.
This decision follows legal action by two injured Capitol Police officers who accused Mr. Trump of urging the crowd to “fight like hell” just before the outbreak of violence.
Despite Mr. Trump’s attempt to assert immunity based on his presidential role, the three-judge panel concluded that his remarks were not made in an official capacity.
The former president’s legal team contended that he should be shielded from lawsuits related to actions within his official duties, as per the Supreme Court’s precedent limiting presidential liability to matters outside their official responsibilities.
“When a first-term President opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win re-election is not an official presidential act,” wrote Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan.
“The Office of the Presidency as an institution is agnostic about who will occupy it next. And campaigning to gain that office is not an official act of the office.”
The judge added that a president “does not spend every minute of every day exercising official responsibilities”.
But the decision only finds that Mr Trump was acting outside his official duties at the time, and does not go so far as to say he should be found liable in the lawsuits.
Mr Trump can still argue in future cases that he was acting as president, not as a candidate. He could also challenge the ruling at the conservative-leaning US Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, the unanimous decision could pave the way for further lawsuits against Mr Trump over his part in allegedly inciting the violence.
A spokesman for Mr Trump told Politico that Friday’s ruling is “limited, narrow and procedural”.
The riot broke out as lawmakers were meeting inside Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. In the hours beforehand, Mr Trump had addressed a rally in Washington DC where he urged supporters to march to the Capitol.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” he said at the time. “You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
During the violence, at least 138 Capitol and Metropolitan Police officers were injured by rioters. Four police officers died from suicide in the months after the attack.
Capitol Police officers James Blasingame and Sidney Hemby subsequently filed lawsuits against Mr Trump for his actions.
The officers are seeking compensatory damages and an undisclosed amount in punitive damages from the former president, citing emotional and physical injuries.
“Today’s ruling makes clear that those who endanger our democracy and the lives of those sworn to defend it will be held to account,” Patrick Malone, a lawyer for the officers, said in a statement.
Mr Trump is currently leading the pack of Republicans seeking the party’s nomination for the 2024 election against Mr Biden.
Meanwhile, his legal problems continue to mount. On Thursday, the judge overseeing his New York civil trial reinstated a gag order banning him from making disparaging comments about court staff.
Court rules Donald Trump can be sued for allegedly inciting Capitol riot was last modified: December 2nd, 2023 by.