Lawyers for Donald Trump will make the case on Wednesday that the former president should be immune from liability with regard to three civil lawsuits in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
In February, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the lawsuits may proceed and denied a claim by Trump that his prior actions were protected by certain privileges of being president. Trump’s attorneys are now appealing the judge’s ruling, arguing that the former president’s remarks at the Ellipse before the riot were safeguarded by “ironclad presidential immunity as it relates to speech-making.”
“The underlying question here is simple: is a president immune from civil liability when he or she gives a speech on a matter of public concern? The answer is undoubtedly, yes,” said Trump’s lawyers in court documents.
The lawsuits in question were filed in 2021 by police officers and Democratic House members who say they were defending the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Those lawsuits allege that Trump egged on his supporters to target the Capitol.
D.C. District Court Judge Amit Mehta wrote in his ruling in February that Trump’s remarks prior to the riot “is the essence of civil conspiracy” since the former president said those at the protest, and himself, were working “towards a common goal.”
“To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step,” the judge wrote. “The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent.”
Now, Trump’s legal team is urging the court to reverse Mehta’s February ruling. The team also wants the appeals court to forward the case back to Mehta so he can potentially remove Trump as a defendant.
Multiple close allies of the former president, including Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr., were dismissed by Mehta from the lawsuits earlier in 2022.
The three lawsuits have been consolidated into one to speed up the appeal process — with two initially being filed by lawmakers and one being filed by Capitol Police officers.
The lawmakers have alleged that Trump threatened them by attempting to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election, which the former president has called “rigged” and “stolen.” The officers allege that Trump bears responsibility for them being hit with objects during the riot, such as signs and water bottles, and sprayed with chemicals.
“Immunizing Trump’s conduct would weaken the presidency by diminishing the American public’s ability to choose who occupies that office,” lawyers for the officers and lawmakers told the court in October. “Thus, immunizing Trump’s conduct would warp the very constitutional structure that immunity exists to preserve,” they told the court in a brief filed in October.
A lawyer for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.