A federal judge in Washington, DC, is questioning former President Donald Trump’s actions during his speech on January 6, 2021, as he considers for the first time whether Trump is immune from liability related to his supporters attacking the US Capitol.
During a court hearing Monday, Judge Amit Mehta pointed out repeatedly that Trump on January 6 asked the crowd to march to the Capitol, but that he didn’t speak up for two hours asking people to stop the violence.
“The words are hard to walk back,” Mehta said. “You have an almost two-hour window where the President does not say, ‘Stop, get out of the Capitol. This is not what I wanted you to do.'”
“What do I do about the fact the President didn’t denounce the conduct immediately … and sent a tweet that arguably exacerbated things?” the judge asked. “Isn’t that, from a plausibility standpoint, that the President plausibly agreed with the conduct of the people inside the Capitol that day?”
The major hearing on Monday is part of a trio of insurrection-related lawsuits seeking to hold Trump and other Republican figures like Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama accountable at a time when the House select committee probing January 6 has aggressively investigated the political leaders who inspired the attack, and as the Justice Department is prosecuting more than 700 rioters for criminal offenses.
Mehta’s line of questioning is a foreboding sign for Trump, at least as people seek damages through civil litigation following the insurrection. Some of the lawsuits at issue use a civil rights law, commonly called the KKK Act, that allows for lawsuits when officials are intimidated from doing their public duties.
It is the first major test of whether civil litigation is a viable route to holding Trump accountable for the violence toward Congress, after he was acquitted by the Senate in his second impeachment trial last February. [Continue reading…]