Trump no longer immune from civil lawsuits over 6th January Capitol attack - Hindustan Times
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Donald Trump no longer immune from civil lawsuits over 6th January Capitol attack, says US appeals court

Dec 02, 2023 07:12 AM IST

Legal setback hits former US President Donald Trump, appeals court rejects immunity claim in January 6 Capitol riot cases.

The former US president Donald Trump has lost his bid to avoid civil lawsuits over his role in inciting the 6 January 2021 attack on the Capitol by his supporters.

(FILES) Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during the third day of his civil fraud trial in New York on October 4, 2023. A US federal appeals court ruled December 1, 2023 that former president Donald Trump can be sued over the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol that saw his supporters attempt to thwart certification of his election loss to Joe Biden. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)(AFP)
(FILES) Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during the third day of his civil fraud trial in New York on October 4, 2023. A US federal appeals court ruled December 1, 2023 that former president Donald Trump can be sued over the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol that saw his supporters attempt to thwart certification of his election loss to Joe Biden. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)(AFP)

A US appeals court on Friday rejected his claim that he is immune from such lawsuits because he was acting as president at the time.

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The court ruled that Trump was acting “in his personal capacity as a presidential candidate” when he told his supporters to march to the Capitol and stop the certification of his 2020 election defeat.

The court also cited that US presidents are only immune from civil lawsuits for their official actions, not their political ones. One of the lawsuits against Trump was filed under the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, a law passed after the Civil War to protect federal officials from violence and intimidation by white supremacists.

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The court’s opinion, written by Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan, an Obama appointee, and joined by Judges Gregory Katsas, a Trump appointee, and Judith Rogers, a Clinton appointee, said, “When a first-term President opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win re-election is not an official presidential act. While Presidents are often exercising official responsibilities when they speak on matters of public concern, that is not always the case.”

The court also said that the former President could still try to prove that he was acting in his official capacity as a defense in the lower court, where the lawsuits will proceed.

“When these cases move forward in the district court, he must be afforded the opportunity to develop his own facts on the immunity question if he desires to show that he took the actions alleged in the complaints in his official capacity as President rather than in his unofficial capacity as a candidate,” the court said.

The decision opens the door for Trump to face lawsuits from police officers and lawmakers who were injured or threatened by his supporters during the riot, which was an attempt to overturn the results of a democratic election.

One of the plaintiffs, James Blassingame, a Capitol police officer, said, “More than two years later, it is unnerving to hear the same fabrications and dangerous rhetoric that put my life as well as the lives of my fellow officers in danger on January 6, 2021. I couldn’t be more committed to pursuing accountability on this matter. I hope our case will assist with helping put our democracy back on the right track; making it crystal clear that no person, regardless of title or position of stature, is above the rule of law.”

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Trump, who is currently the leading contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, faces a slew of legal troubles in addition to the civil lawsuits. He has been criminally charged by the justice department and the Fulton county district attorney for trying to interfere with the 2020 election. He is also under criminal investigation by the justice department for mishandling classified information after leaving office.

Plus, the 45th US president is facing a civil case by the Manhattan district attorney over hush-money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels. He has also been accused of fraud by the New York attorney general for inflating the value of his assets to get better loans and insurance.

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