DC Court: Trump Can Face Lawsuit for Jan. 6 Incitement

Court Examines Presidential Immunity in Landmark Ruling

by Zain ul Abedin
DC Court: Trump Can Face Lawsuit for Jan. 6 Incitement
© Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

In a landmark decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that former President Donald Trump is not immune from civil lawsuits alleging his involvement in inciting the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. This pivotal ruling, eagerly anticipated by legal experts and the public, effectively dismisses Trump's claims of absolute immunity linked to his presidential role.

This critical decision focused narrowly on the question of Trump's immunity, opens the door for several lawsuits filed by members of Congress and Capitol Police officers. These plaintiffs are seeking damages for the trauma and injuries they allege were a direct result of the Capitol riot.

The court's ruling addresses explicitly the crux of the matter: whether Trump's conduct leading up to and on January 6th can be considered an official act of his presidency, thus granting him immunity. The verdict was clear: "We answer no, at least at this stage of the proceedings.

When a first-term President opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win re-election is not an official presidential act." This distinction between Trump's actions as a president and presidential candidate plays a pivotal role in the court's decision.

Rejecting Immunity Claims

Further, the court highlighted a significant moment when Trump, still in office and contesting his 2020 election loss, acknowledged acting as a candidate. This acknowledgment was made during his motion to intervene in a Supreme Court case, which the court referenced to support their decision.

In challenging the notion of absolute immunity, Trump argued that a president's speech on matters of public concern is invariably an official function. The court, however, rejected this argument, emphasizing that the nature of Trump's speech and actions related to the January 6 rally and its lead-up were not protected under official-act immunity.

While this ruling does not bar Trump from pursuing immunity claims as the civil lawsuits progress, it sets a significant precedent. The court has declined to recognize a blanket immunity for actions taken under the guise of presidential duties, especially when factual allegations have yet to be addressed in each specific lawsuit.

It's important to note that this ruling pertains exclusively to the civil lawsuits against Trump following the January 6 attack. It does not intersect with the federal criminal case led by special counsel Jack Smith, scheduled for trial in March.

This ruling is a pivotal moment in the ongoing legal discourse surrounding the events of January 6, setting a precedent for the accountability of presidential actions and their legal ramifications.