Lawsuits against Trump over Jan. 6 riot can move forward, appeals court says
Lawsuits against Donald Trump brought by Capitol Police officers and Democratic lawmakers over the U.S. Capitol riot, can move forward, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Trump’s request to dismiss the lawsuits that accuse him of inciting the violent mob on Jan. 6, 2021. But the court said it’s ruling was not the final word on whether presidential immunity shields the Republican from liability in the case and said the judges express “no view on the ultimate merits of the claims” against the former president.
The case was decided by a unanimous three-court panel that included Judge Gregory Katsas, a Trump appointee to the bench who authored his own concurring opinion.
A lawyer for Trump, Jesse Binnall, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment on the ruling.
The decision comes as Trump’s lawyers are arguing he is also immune from criminal prosecution in the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith that accuses Trump of illegally plotting to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden. That case in Washington is one of four criminal cases Trump is facing as he tries to retake the White House in 2024.
Trump’s lawyers have said the president’s words involved “matters of public concern” and falls within the scope of absolute presidential immunity. They noted in court papers that Trump was acquitted in the U.S. Senate of inciting the riot after a historic impeachment trial, and claimed the lawsuits are “just this type of harassment presidential immunity is meant to foreclose.”
The D.C. appeals court decision comes after Trump challenged a federal judge’s ruling denying his effort to throw out the lawsuits. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta had ruled that Trump’s words during the rally before the storming of the Capitol were likely “words of incitement not protected by the First Amendment.”