A federal appeals court has sided with the Democrats, ruling that President Donald Trump is “not immune” to lawsuits related to the protests at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
In a filing, Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stated that Trump could potentially be held liable for “damages” arising from lawsuits connected to January 6.
Judge Srinivasan mentioned that Capitol Police officers and members of Congress present at the U.S. Capitol on that day have filed cases seeking civil “damages” from Trump. These lawsuits, with Trump as the sole defendant, aim to claim “damages” for the alleged harms suffered during the riot, as outlined by the judge.
“According to the plaintiffs, President Trump’s actions, including ultimately his speech on January 6, sparked the ensuing riot at the Capitol,” he said.
Srinivasan, a member of a three-judge panel, mentioned that Trump has taken steps in the district court to dismiss the claims made against him.
Trump’s legal arguments include invoking “a President’s official-act immunity from damages liability,” as outlined by Srinivasan.
“The district court largely rejected his claim of immunity, and President Trump now appeals,” he continued.
“The sole issue before us is whether President Trump has demonstrated an entitlement to official-act immunity for his actions leading up to and on January 6 as alleged in the complaints.
“We answer no, at least at this state of the proceedings.”
Srinivasan pointed out that “since the Supreme Court’s decision in Nixon v. Fitzgerald, Presidents have performed their official duties without being subject to civil damages liability.” He emphasized that the mentioned decision “established a President’s absolute immunity from civil damages claims based on his official acts.”
But he continued by saying that “the President, though, does not spend every minute of every day exercising official responsibilities.”
“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.”
“When he acts in an unofficial, private capacity, he is subject to civil suits like any private citizen,” Srinivasan said.
He explained that when a “first-term President opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win re-election is not an official presidential act.”
Srinivasan also wrote that “in arguing that he is entitled to official-act immunity in the cases before us, President Trump does not dispute that he engaged in his alleged actions up to and on January 6 in his capacity as a candidate.
“But he thinks that does not matter.”
“Rather, in his view, a President’s speech on matters of public concern is invariably an official function, and he was engaged in that function when he spoke at the January 6 rally and in the leadup to that day,” he concluded.
“We cannot accept that rationale.”