Lawyers for the former US president argue that he was acting in his official capacity before the deadly attack on the US Capitol.
Donald Trump should be immune from civil lawsuits over last year’s siege of the United States Capitol by his supporters, a lawyer for the former president told a federal appeals court on Wednesday.
Jesse Binnall told the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that his client Trump is immune from lawsuits because he was acting as president when he delivered his impassioned comments to his supporters, using the “intimidation pulpit.” ” to comment on external events.
Democrats in Congress and police officers have filed several lawsuits over the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, alleging that Trump conspired with others to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election results.
Trump told his crowd of supporters that he would never concede the 2020 race and urged them to “fight like crazy” before marching on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers were preparing to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
A 1982 US Supreme Court ruling held that presidents cannot be sued for their official acts. But US District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, DC, ruled in February that Trump’s fiery speech before the riots fell outside the then-president’s scope of duties, allowing the lawsuits to move forward.
The three-judge panel pressed lawyers for both sides about the scope of presidential immunity and the options available to hold people accountable for disrupting Congress.
Under questioning by Judge Gregory Katsas, Binnall said Trump could “theoretically” face criminal liability for the riots. But he reiterated that civil lawsuits should be barred because they could make other presidents vulnerable to future litigation over his speech.
Joseph Sellers, arguing in defense of the lawsuits, said Trump does not have immunity because his actions disrupted the work of another branch of government.
Asked if Trump’s pleas to his supporters on January 6 amounted to protected free speech, Sellers said the president’s comments should be seen as part of a series of actions aimed at preventing Congress from certifying Trump’s elections. 2020.
The arguments come as Trump faces federal criminal investigations linked to Jan. 6 and his withholding of White House records, as well as a congressional investigation into violence on Capitol Hill. Last month, Trump announced that he would run for president again in 2024.
Several members of Congress who are suing Trump attended Wednesday’s arguments, including Democrats Eric Swalwell and Pramila Jayapal.
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