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Jan. 6 suits can proceed

By: Associated Press//December 4, 2023//

U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

Jan. 6 suits can proceed

By: Associated Press//December 4, 2023//

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WASHINGTON — Lawsuits against Donald Trump over the U.S. Capitol riot can move forward, a federal appeals court ruled Friday, rejecting the former president’s bid to dismiss the cases accusing him of inciting the violent mob on Jan. 6, 2021.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit court knocked down Trump’s sweeping claims that presidential immunity shields him from liability in the lawsuits brought by Democratic lawmakers and police officers.

The three-judge panel said the 2024 Republican presidential primary front-runner can continue to fight as the cases proceed to try to prove his actions were taken in his official capacity as president.

Trump says he can’t be sued over the riot that left dozens of police officers injured, arguing that his words during a rally before the storming of the Capitol addressed “matters of public concern” and fall within the scope of absolute presidential immunity.

Later the same day, a federal judge ruled Trump is not immune from prosecution in the separate criminal case brought by special counsel Jack Smith that accuses Trump of illegally plotting to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing in that case, is expected to quickly appeal.

While courts have afforded presidents broad immunity for their official acts, the judges made clear that protection does not cover just any act or speech undertaken by a president.

A president running for a second term, for example, is not carrying out the official duties of the presidency when he is speaking at a rally funded by his reelection campaign or attends a private fundraiser, the appeals court said.

“He is acting as office-seeker, not office-holder — no less than are the persons running against him when they take precisely the same actions in their competing campaigns to attain precisely the same office,” Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote for the court.

But the court said its decision is not necessarily the final word on the issue of presidential immunity, leaving the door open for Trump to keep fighting the issue.

It took pains to note that it was not being asked to evaluate whether Trump was responsible for the riot or should be held to account in court. It also said Trump could still seek to argue that his actions were protected by the First Amendment — a claim he’s also made in his pending criminal case — or covered by other privileges.

Trump could ask the full appeals court to take up the matter or go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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