WASHINGTON – Attorneys for former President Donald Trump, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and extremist groups Oath Keepers and Proud Boys on Monday urged a federal judge to dismiss a trio of lawsuits accusing them of inciting riot on Capitol Hill a year ago. .
US District Judge Amit Mehta was debating whether to let the cases filed in February and March last year continue with the trial.
Trump’s attorney, Jesse Binnall, argued that the former president had immunity for anything he said at a rally on January 6, 2021, and that he could not be sued for damages. Binnall also said he could not be part of any conspiracy to incite violence because he urged participants to “make their voices heard peacefully and patriotically” on Capitol Hill.
“These cases should be dismissed because they should never have been filed in the first place,” Binnall said. “The complaints themselves lack any legal basis. Instead, they are full of propaganda aimed at achieving a political rather than a legal goal. “
A dozen House Democrats and a pair of Capitol cops filed three lawsuits against Trump arguing that his calls on supporters to fight for their country sparked the violence. The riot injured 140 officers and left four people dead, while temporarily preventing Congress from counting the Electoral College votes that certified President Joe Biden’s victory. A police officer died of a stroke the day after being attacked in the riots, although a coroner attributed the death to natural causes.
Joseph Sellers, a lawyer representing the House of Representatives group of Democrats, argued that Trump could be sued because the rally was a private event similar to a campaign rally and he was not protected for the performance of his official duties.
“The president does not have a legitimate role in counting the ballots,” Sellers said. “There is absolutely no legitimate role in fomenting an insurrection directed at Congress.”
In deciding whether to allow the cases to advance, Mehta must decide whether Trump had immunity from such lawsuits, whether his speech was protected by the First Amendment, and whether the law allows lawmakers and officials to bring the cases.
“I hope one thing this hearing has shown is that this is not an easy case,” Mehta said. “I have struggled with many of these problems because they raise many important constitutional questions.”
The civil lawsuits are separate from the criminal cases that the Justice Department is pursuing against more than 700 defendants.
A civil case led by Representative Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who also heads the committee investigating the attack, accused Trump of violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which sought to protect legislators from threats or intimidation against the performance of their duties. The case filed in February 2021 also named Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, the Oath keepers and Proud Boys, far-right groups with dozens of members criminally charged in the attack.
Thompson was joined by other lawmakers in his case: Representatives Bonnie Coleman Watson, DN.J .; Karen Bass, Democrat of California; Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington; Maxine Waters, Democrat of California; Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y .; Henry Johnson, D-Ga .; Stephen Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee; Barbara Lee, Democrat of California; Verónica Escobar, D-Texas; and Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio.
Another case is that of Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat of California, who accused Trump of inciting the attack. The lawsuit filed in March 2021 also targeted Giuliani, the son of former President Donald Trump Jr., and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, who spoke at a Trump rally near the White House before the attack.
The third case is by Capitol Police Officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby. They alleged that Trump’s conduct incited the riot by urging his supporters to try to overturn the election results.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism