The US District Court for the District of Columbia denied former President Donald Trump’s motion Friday to dismiss three lawsuits seeking to hold him accountable for the January 6 US Capitol Attack of 2021 (“Jan 6 Attack”). In doing so, the judge held Trump lacked absolute immunity and First Amendment protection.
The plaintiffs, who include eleven House of Representative members and two Capitol Police officers, seek to hold several defendants liable for the Jan 6 Attack. Plaintiffs claim that “the Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1985(1), a provision of a Reconstruction-Era statute known as the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.” This Act aimed to eliminate white supremacist violence and enforce Fourteenth Amendment civil rights by protecting federal officials from conspiratorial acts.
The defendants included Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudolph Giuliani, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and the Oath Keepers. They moved to dismiss the Complaints, arguing the plaintiffs lacked subject matter jurisdiction and failed to state a claim. The district court heard these arguments during a five-hour motion hearing. Judge Amit Mehta subsequently dismissed Trump, Tarrio, and the Oath Keepers’ motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ § 1985(1) claim, but he granted Trump Jr and Giuliani’s motions.
Discussing Trump’s motion, Mehta highlighted Trump’s message to a crowd at a “Save America” rally, where he said, “We fight, we fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Trump then urged rally-goers to march to the Capitol and they obliged. Five died during the attack and officers suffered physical and emotional injuries, and the Capitol building was considerably damaged. In his 112-page opinion, Mehta stated:
January 6, 2021 was supposed to mark the peaceful transition of power. . . . Violence and disruption happened in other countries, but not here. This is the United States of America, and it could never happen to our democracy. But it did that very afternoon.
Earlier this week President Joe Biden ordered the National Archives to send the Trump White House visitor logs to a House Select Committee investigating the Jan 6 Attack, rejecting the former president’s executive privilege claims. Trump’s attempt to block the release of presidential records from his White House to the House Select Committee through an emergency request was denied by the Supreme Court last month.