Former President Trump on Wednesday urged a federal appeals court in Washington to rule that he is ‘protected by absolute presidential immunity’ from civil lawsuits related to his attempts to stay in the White House despite losing the election. of 2020.
Trump relaunches his sweeping claim of immunity on appeal after the request was denied by a district court judge, who declined to dismiss Trump as a defendant in several civil lawsuits seeking to hold him accountable for his efforts surrounding the 6 January 2021, Attack on the Capitol.
In a February ruling, Obama-appointed U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said Trump could be prosecuted for helping to incite the riot on Capitol Hill last year because his efforts to undermine the victory by President Biden, including his speech at the Stop the Steal rally just before the Capitol breakthrough, could not be considered official acts.
The ruling prompted Trump’s appeal in March to the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The panel of judges presiding over the appeal of former presidents has not yet been selected.
In court documents filed late Wednesday, Trump’s attorneys urged the appeals court to find that the lower court judge erred in ruling against Trump’s immunity request.
“President Trump is protected by absolute presidential immunity because his statements were on matters of public interest and therefore well within the framework of the strong absolute immunity granted to all presidents,” reads Trump’s brief. No hyperbole about the violence of January 6, 2021 allows this Court to create an exception to the constitutional separation of powers.
The former president faces multiple civil lawsuits stemming from his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including lawsuits filed by U.S. Capitol police officers and members of the Democratic House. The lawsuits claim in part that Trump violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a civil rights law that prohibits conspiracies against the federal government or to disenfranchise people.
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Mehta, in his 112-page opinion rejecting Trump’s absolute immunity claim, said the former president’s post-election effort was not about official acts, but rather a personal attempt to remain in the White House. .
After all, the president’s actions here are unrelated to his duties to faithfully execute the laws, conduct foreign affairs, command the armed forces or manage the executive branch, Mehta wrote. They are entirely about his efforts to stay in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation of powers concerns that justify the president’s broad immunity are not present here.
In his decision, Mehta dismissed the charges against Rudy Giuliani, one of the figures who the plaintiffs said had participated in the plot. He also narrowed the claims against Trump, but upheld the count filed under Ku Klux Klan law.
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