U.S. Circuit Court ruling in favor of lawsuits seeking civil damages from the President over the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Police officers and Democratic Congress members
A panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of several lawsuits brought by Capitol Police officers and Democratic Congress members seeking civil damages from Trump related to the events of January 6, 2021.
Former President Donald Trump is not immune from being sued over the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a federal appeals court ruled Friday, clearing the way for lawsuits filed against him in connection with the deadly riot.
The president, said Judge Sri Srinivasan in the written opinion, “does not spend every minute of every day exercising official responsibilities. And when he acts outside the functions of his office, he does not continue to enjoy immunity from damages liability just because he happens to be the President.”
The opinion said he was acting as an officer-seeker, not an officer-holder, and that the people who were running against him were doing the same thing to get the same office.
Trump has tried to argue that a president’s speech on a matter of public concern, such as allegations of vote fraud, should be considered an official act of the president.
A sitting president is usually talking in a campaign ad on a public issue. He does not have a formal capacity to be an official office-holder according to the opinion. “Actions taken in an unofficial capacity cannot qualify for official-act immunity.”
“When a first-term President opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win re-election is not an official presidential act,” says a ruling handed down this morning.
“We answer no,” the court says, “at least at this stage of the proceedings,” adding that “campaigning to gain that office is not an official act of the office.”
In part, it was Trump’s own attempt to overturn the election at the US Supreme Court that may have doomed his case. The DC circuit states that he acknowledged that he tried to have the result reversed in his favor, but not as a sitting president. The ruling says that the claims were certified that Trump wanted the court to intervene based on his own interests as a candidate.
The Justice Department concluded in March that Trump could be sued over the attack, saying that the president is protected from being sued over speech regarding a wide range of topics.