The immunity a sitting President enjoys covers a lot of legal ground, and it ends concurrently with the end of their term in office. But that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump and his team of lawyers from claiming it should still apply to him nearly a full year after he left the White House on the heels of his second impeachment.
Trump’s legal team is attempting to fight off three new lawsuits, one of which accuses Trump of conspiring with Rudy Giuliani and extremist militias to violate the Ku Klux Klan Act. Each suit alleges his actions inciting the violence at the Capitol on January 6th and has yet to specifically prove how the release of White House documents to the National Archives would harm Trump. President Joe Biden has already issued his denial of immunity protection for Trump going forward.
A little less than a year ago, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), now the Chairman of the House Select Committee, sued Trump, Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers in a lawsuit accusing them of having “conspired to incite an assembled crowd to march upon and enter” the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. Thompson filed his complaint more than a month later on February 16, alleging that the ex-president, his lawyer, and the militia members acted in cahoots to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. Subsequent lawsuits by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Capitol Police officers also alleged that Trump incited the attack, or—in the words of the law enforcement officials—”directed” their assaults.
"This is about accountability. And for too long, accountability has been a stranger that Donald Trump has never encountered and today in a courtroom, he met it.” – Rep. Eric Swalwell on the January 6th lawsuit against the former president. pic.twitter.com/muaBmvBgG0
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) January 11, 2022
Jesse Binnall, a member of the Trump team who also led the failed effort to overturn the Nevada election results with a series of conspiracy theories, characterized the lawsuits as “full of propaganda meant to achieve a political rather than a legal objective.” But like those statements, this new round of arguments was also rejected by a judge.
Trump attorney Jesse Binnall says in court that he doesn’t believe there is anything that a President could say or do in his capacity as a candidate that would not receive immunity
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) January 10, 2022
As in other lawsuits against Trump, Binnall advanced an expansive theory of immunity that would cover virtually any statement that a president made, regardless of whether those statements were defamatory or incited violence. But U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta skeptically replied that the Supreme Court is clear on the scope of immunity: “Context matters,” said Judge Mehta, who is currently presiding over multiple criminal prosecutions of January 6th defendants. Judge Mehta also noted that Trump’s last words urged them to go to the Capitol, and his calls for “fighting” and showing strength outweighed that throwaway line.
Judge Mehta: "…[Trump] doesn't do anything for about two hours to tell people to stand down and leave the Capitol? Isn't that enough to at least plausibly infer that the president agreed with the conduct of the people who were in the Capitol that day?" https://t.co/kg1UxMxTwJ
— Katie S. Phang (@KatiePhang) January 10, 2022
Once the riot began, Judge Mehta said Trump could have simply and directly announced that he didn’t want a riot and everyone should stop and go home, but Trump did not take any such action.
2. Second development:
Judge Mehta, in 5-hour hearing on Monday (yes, I listened to it all), provided "roadmap" for how Pres. Trump may be found liable.
Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction while assault took place — wasn’t just act of omission but evidence of agreement/conspiracy. pic.twitter.com/CTDbEQQVEU
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) January 11, 2022
[This is a developing and continuing story, please check back for updates]