Donald Trump's Legal Woes Intensify as Judge Denies Pause on Jan. 6 Lawsuits

Courts challenge Trump's immunity claims in ongoing legal battles.

by Nouman Rasool
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Donald Trump's Legal Woes Intensify as Judge Denies Pause on Jan. 6 Lawsuits
© Jabin Botsford - Pool/Getty Images

Late Thursday, a federal judge rejected an attempt by former President Donald Trump to delay hundreds of lawsuits accusing him of inciting the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. In Washington, US District Judge Amit Mehta said there was no basis to stay the civil cases until and unless Trump is ever actually prosecuted on charges that he tried to 'steal' the 2020 election in an earlier criminal case that's been related to the sprawling legal assault.

The latest judicial blow further complicates things for Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. He is facing another legal battle, as jury selection is underway this week in New York for a criminal trial on alleged hush-money payments by his 2016 campaign.

Democratic lawmakers and Capitol police officers said they were traumatized and injured by the pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The claimants say that Trump incited the insurrection to stop the certification of the election of President Joe Biden.

Immunity Defense Rejected

Trump's lawyers have also argued that the former president is entitled to such immunity from litigation under the doctrine of absolute presidential immunity and that the speech before the riot was of public concern.

A federal appeals court in Washington rejected those arguments in a December decision that advanced the lawsuits while finding Trump still has a right to press his immunity defense as the cases move forward. In other recent court filings, Trump's legal team has sought to stop the civil cases under appeal, arguing that it is just "basic fairness to criminal defendants." They have worried that moving forward in the lawsuits would reveal the plans for Trump's defense in the criminal case.

Judge Mehta, an appointee of Barack Obama, emphasized the interest of the public to have both civil and criminal cases resolved as quickly as possible. He said safeguards could be in place to protect Trump's Fifth Amendment right without stalling the two lawsuits.

Next week, the Supreme Court will consider the dispute over Trump's immunity from criminal prosecution for the election interference case, being conducted by special counsel Jack Smith. What is at issue is simply whether Trump will be subject to trial on prosecutors' charges that he orchestrated an extensive effort to remain in office after losing the 2020 election. These related legal fights will dramatically affect Trump's political and personal future.

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