Lawyers for the former US president argue that he acted in his official capacity before the deadly attack on the US Capitol.
Jesse Binnall told the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that Mr. Trump’s client was exempt from the lawsuits because he was president when he made his dispassionate remarks for supporters, use the “bullying podium” to comment on outside events.
Democrats in Congress and Police Officer filed several lawsuits over the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, alleging that Trump conspired with others to disrupt certification of the 2020 election results.
Trump told a crowd of his supporters that he will never concede the 2020 race and urged them to “fight fiercely” before marching to the Capitol, where lawmakers were preparing to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
A 1982 United States Supreme Court ruling held that presidents cannot be sued for their official conduct. But US District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, DC, ruled in February that Trump’s fiery speech to the riots was not within the scope of the then-president’s mandate, allowing lawsuits conducted.
The three-judge panel pressed lawyers on both sides about the scope of presidential immunity and what options are available to hold those accountable for disrupting Congress.
Under questioning by Judge Gregory Katsas, Binnall said Trump could “theoretically” face criminal responsibility for the riots. But he reiterated that civil lawsuits should be banned because they could leave other presidents vulnerable to future litigation over their speeches.
Joseph Sellers, arguing in defense of the lawsuits, said Trump has no immunity because his actions disrupted the work of another branch of government.
When asked if Trump’s plea to supporters on January 6 was a protected right to free speech, Sellers said the president’s remarks should be seen as part of a series of tweets. action to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election.
The arguments come as Trump faces federal crime investigations tied to January 6 and White House record keepingas well as a congressional investigation about violence in the Capitol. Last month, Trump announced he was running for president in 2024.
Several members of Congress who are suing Trump attended Wednesday’s debates, including Democrats Eric Swalwell and Pramila Jayapal.