According to Fox News, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) just announced that former President Donald Trump can be sued by the police officers who responded to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol protest.
The DOJ said that certain Democratic lawmakers can bring a lawsuit against Trump as well.
What’s going on?
There are 13 individuals who are currently looking to hold Trump legally responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol protest. This includes two Capitol Police officers – James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby – and 11 Democratic members of Congress.
These individuals allege that Trump caused the Capitol protest, which led to the injuries that they sustained during the protest.
Trump and his legal team have sought to dismiss the lawsuit arguing that Trump has immunity from these claims.
The early going
In February 2022, Trump’s immunity claim was rejected by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta.
Mehta reasoned that, in order for such immunity to apply, Trump must have been acting within his official capacity as the president of the United States. And, according to Mehta, since Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 was not part of his official presidential duties, immunity doesn’t apply.
The president’s actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the executive branch. They entire concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the president’s broad immunity are not present here.
Trump has appealed. His legal team has argued that “Trump was acting well within the scope of ordinary presidential action when he engaged in open discussion and debate about the integrity of the 2020 election.”
Now, the case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the DOJ has filed an amicus curiae brief in the matter.
The DOJ’s stance
It is in this amicus curiae brief that the DOJ – specifically the Civil Division of the DOJ – argued that the lawsuits by the 13 individuals ought to be allowed to go forward – that Trump does not have absolute immunity from them.
The DOJ writes:
Speaking to the public on matters of public concern is a traditional function of the presidency, and the outer perimeter of the president’s office includes a vast realm of such speech. But that traditional function is one of public communication. It does not include incitement of imminent private violence of the sort the district court found that plaintiffs’ complaints have plausibly alleged here.
It remains to be seen what the court will decide. Trump put out the following statement on the matter.