On Friday, a federal judge denied Donald Trump's request for lawsuits against him and others accusing him of starting the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot. He ruled that Trump is potentially liable to damages for actions taken as president.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mahta wrote 112 pages, "To deny immunity to a president civil damages is not a small step," he said. "The court is well aware of the gravity and importance of its decision. The court does not believe that the facts in this case are precedents and therefore its decision is compatible with the purposes of such immunity.
Two police officers and members of Congress filed the lawsuits against Trump and other for violating federal civil rights laws and local incitement laws. Trump sought to dismiss the lawsuits. His lawyers claimed that he is immune from civil lawsuits for his official actions during his term and that his advocacy to Congress to prevent the formalizations of President Joe Biden’s victory was protected political speech.
Trump stated to supporters during the rally before the Electoral College vote counts.
"We will walk down to Capitol and cheer on our brave senators and congressmen, but we won't be cheering for all of them. Because we will not allow weakness to take over our country."
Mehta said that the speech was "akin telling an excited mob corn-dealers starve poor people in front of their home." His later tweet, which he criticized then-Vice President Mike Pence for continuing the attack on Capitol Hill, suggested that he had reached a "tacit accord" with the rioters.
Trump Jr., Trump's oldest son, was also sued. He was also named as a defendant in the lawsuits. Former President Barack Obama appointed Mehta. He denied Tarrio's motions for dismissal and the Oath Keepers, but dropped the cases against Trump Jr., and Giuliani. Brooks would also be dropped from the suits if he requested it.
These suits invoke the Civil Rights Act of1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which permits lawsuits against government officials for allegations that they conspired or violate civil rights.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) stated in his filing that the attack was "a direct consequence of the defendants’ false and incendiary claims of fraud and theft and in direct response the defendants’ express calls for violence."
Trump's lawyers argued against Swalwell’s lawsuit, claiming that his impeachment followed by his acquittal in the aftermath of the riot meant that he couldn't be sued for similar conduct.
The Constitution allows for a president who is impeached or convicted to be subject to civil or criminal actions after he has been removed from office. His lawyers, however, argued that the opposite is true. A president who has been acquitted by the Senate cannot be sued for similar claims.