Washington, Mar 2 (EFE).- The US Department of Justice said Thursday that former President Donald Trump is not entitled to “absolute immunity” for having incited the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters.
This would mean that the ex-president could be subject to civil lawsuits seeking to hold him liable for the attack, which many officials, lawmakers and members of the news media have called an “attempted coup” designed to keep him in office even though Joe Biden defeated him in the November 2020 presidential election.
According to a newly filed court brief, government lawyers disagreed with defense claims in the multiple Jan. 6 cases filed against Trump that the ex-president should have “absolute immunity” from such lawsuits, although they did not take a position regarding whether he should ultimately win or lose those cases filed by police officers and members of Congress seeking to hold him responsible for physical and psychological damage they suffered as a result of the attack.
The attorneys did agree with Trump and his defense team, however, that presidents are entitled to certain far-reaching protection against being sued over most actions they took during the course of their official duties.
“In the United States’ view, such incitement of imminent private violence would not be within the outer perimeter of the Office of the President of the United States,” DOJ lawyers said in their statement.
Trump, through his defense attorneys, has argued that he cannot be sued at all over any statements he made prior to the Capitol assault because he was speaking on matters of public concern and within the scope of his presidential duties.
The DOJ lawyers said that a president’s official responsibilities do not include inciting imminent violence, as Trump did in a Jan. 6, 2021, speech to a large crowd of supporters in front of the White House urging them to immediately march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” to prevent lawmakers from certifying Biden’s win in the November election, as they were in the process of doing on that date.
A panel of three judges on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals must now decide whether the three cases filed by police and lawmakers against Trump can proceed.
The panel heard oral arguments in the matter in December but it also asked the DOJ for its opinion, which was included in the brief filed on Thursday asserting that Trump’s position as president at the time of the attack does not afford him immunity against civil cases of this kind.