Attorneys for former President Donald Trump, citing “absolute immunity” for the presidents, wanted civil cases to be escalated against them regarding the January 6 Capitol riot.
Trump’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, said: “There is no instance that anyone has successfully prosecuted the president for anything that happened during his tenure.” “The absolute immunity of the presidency is very important.”
Trump’s lawyers claimed his client was acting within his official authority and had no intention of causing violence when he called on thousands of supporters to “march to the capital” to obstruct the Senate’s certification of the 2020 election results. ” and called to “fight like hell”.
A five-hour hearing was held in the District of Columbia before US District Judge Amit Mehta on Monday over efforts to dismiss Trump’s civil lawsuits.
Binnell said Trump’s call to disrupt the Senate vote certification process was within the authority of any executive to criticize or comment on the same government branch.
Former President Barack Obama, citing cases that publicly commented on Supreme Court decisions, said, “A president always has the authority to speak out whether another branch can take action explicitly. “
Democratic Representative of California. Eric Swalwell on Trump and Donald Trump Jr., Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Alabama Republican Rep. Moe Brooks and several others, including the right-wing group The Oath Keepers, claiming responsibility for the violent violation of the Capitol building by Trump supporters.
Other lawsuits brought by Democratic representatives and two Capitol police officers claim that Trump and Brooks’ statements on and before January 6 essentially qualify as part of a political campaign, and are therefore fair game for litigation. The plaintiffs are seeking damages for physical and emotional injuries sustained during the rebellion.
“What he talked about was a campaign issue, seeking to secure an election,” said Joseph Sellers, one of the attorneys representing Swellwell’s lawsuit. “It was a purely private act.”
Sellers said Trump’s statements were a clear and clear call for political violence.
“It’s hard to imagine a scenario other than the president himself traveling to the Capitol and busting through the doors…
Binnell argued that Trump is already under trial on January 6 – his second impeachment trial, where he was acquitted by the then Republican-majority Senate.
“It was their remedy and they failed,” he said. “They don’t get another bite of apple here.”
Mehta repeatedly interrupted the lawyers for both sides with questions and challenges.
Giuliani’s attorney, Joseph Sibley, said at one point, “There is no way you can interpret the statements that were made by any speaker as an invitation to go to the Capitol and engage in a conspiracy to commit a crime.” “
Mehta immediately asked, “Why not?”
The judge then referred in detail to Trump’s January 6 speech.
“Their last words were ‘go to the capital’ and before that it was ‘show strength’ and ‘fight’. Why is this not a practical invitation to do what the rioters did?” Mehta asked. “It’s hard to walk back those words.”
Mehta at one point focused on the hours-long silence from Trump as his supporters battled Capitol police and DC police officers and ransacked the building. He questioned Binal at length whether that failure or refusal to condemn the attack as it was taking place could be interpreted as approval.
“You can’t have a situation where the President is bound to take some action or say certain things or be subject to litigation,” Binnell replied.
Brooks has invoked the Westfall Act, a statue protects federal employees From prosecuting actions taken in the performance of his official duties. However, Justice Department attorney Brian Boynton told the court that Brooks should be denied such protection.
The fact that Brooks “was advocating the election of President Trump with these comments at a Trump rally makes it a campaign activity,” Boynton said.
Brooks, who represented himself in Monday’s proceedings, told the court that the House of Representatives ethics committee declined to pursue charges against him. He said that on January 6 there was no campaign to participate.
“Campaign for the election ended on November 3rd,” Brooks said. “After that everything was a legal proceeding.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.