Trump's Immunity Denied in Civil Suit Filed by U.S. Capitol Officers

Trump’s Immunity Denied in Civil Suit Filed by U.S. Capitol Officers

On Friday, a federal appeals court permitted a lawsuit filed by a contingent of U.S. Capitol Police officers against former President Donald Trump to proceed. The court ruled that Trump does not have absolute immunity from civil lawsuits. The lawsuit centers on Trump’s purported actions related to the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, composed of a three-judge panel, based its decision on a recent ruling in a separate case involving two Capitol Police officers and a group of House Democrats.

The December 1 opinion from the D.C. Circuit rejected Trump’s assertion that he is immune from civil liability due to his alleged actions being within the official functions of the presidency in connection to the January 6 attack.

In the unsigned opinion issued on Friday, the three judges stated that the current case is “indistinguishable” from the earlier dispute and dismissed Trump’s argument of immunity, declaring that it “fails.”

“‘Whether [President Trump’s] actions involved speech on matters of public concern bears no inherent connection to the essential distinction between official and unofficial acts,'” In their reasoning, Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan and Judges Bradley Garcia and Judith Rogers cited a previous decision from the D.C. Circuit.

The Trump campaign did not promptly respond to a comment request. The lawsuit, initiated in August 2021 by seven Capitol Police officers who defended the Capitol complex on January 6, alleges that Trump and his allies’ “unlawful actions” led to the riot, during which the officers were assaulted.

Alongside Trump, more than a dozen others, including members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, as well as Trump ally Roger Stone, were named as defendants. The Capitol Police officers sought civil damages for physical and emotional injuries resulting from the January 6 attack.

Trump sought dismissal of the case, claiming absolute immunity. However, in January, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta rejected this argument, allowing the case to proceed.

Mehta, using similar reasoning from a case involving Democratic lawmakers and police officers, ruled in February 2022 that Trump is not broadly immune from civil lawsuits related to the January 6 riot.

Mehta asserted that Trump’s speech before the Capitol breach was not part of his official duties but rather “an implicit call for imminent violence or lawlessness.”

The judge argued that such language is not protected by presidential immunity or the First Amendment.

The D.C. Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision, rejecting Trump’s claim that his speech on January 6 was an official function of the presidency.

Trump has the option to seek a review of the unfavorable decisions in both cases, either from the full D.C. Circuit or from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite the former president’s repeated arguments for the dismissal of cases against him based on presidential immunity, he has faced limited success. In the most recent development, the federal district judge overseeing his criminal case in Washington, D.C., ruled against Trump’s immunity claim, stating that he cannot be shielded from federal prosecution for alleged crimes during his time in the White House.

The criminal charges stem from Trump’s purported attempts to impede the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election. Trump has entered a plea of not guilty to the four charges he is facing.

Following U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s ruling, the former president appealed, and the D.C. Circuit expedited the case, setting arguments on the immunity issue for January 9.

Special counsel Jack Smith, who filed the charges against Trump, sought the Supreme Court’s direct intervention, bypassing the appellate court for a swift resolution. However, the high court rejected Smith’s request last week.

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With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.