Donald Trump’s hours of silence while a violent mob ransacked the Capitol — egged on by his own words and tweets — could be plausibly construed as agreement with rioters’ actions, a federal judge, reported Politico.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta made the analysis as he pressed Trump’s lawyers about their efforts to dismiss a series of lawsuits against the former president seeking to hold him financially liable for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“What do I do about the fact the president didn’t denounce the conduct immediately?” Mehta wondered, homing in on a central focus of congressional investigators probing Trump’s conduct that day. “Isn’t that, from a plausibility standpoint, enough to at least plausibly infer that the president agreed with the conduct of the people that were inside the Capitol that day?
Mehta’s questioning prompted Trump’s attorney, Jesse Binnall, to push back, forcefully arguing that Trump can’t conceivably face legal consequences for actions he did not take.
“The president cannot be subject to judicial action for any sort of damages for failing to do something,” Binnall said.
“If my words had been misconstrued … and they led to violence, wouldn’t somebody, the reasonable person, just come out and say, wait a second, stop?” Mehta wondered. He then referred explicitly to evidence unearthed by the Jan. 6 select committee, noting that Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. had done just that, imploring White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to get his father to issue a forceful public denunciation of the violence. But Trump didn’t issue any public calls for the rioters to go home for two hours after police lost control of the Capitol.
Mehta is primarily focused on whether to permit the lawsuits against Trump to move forward, and he is largely determining, at this stage, whether the complaints against the former president are plausible and legally sound.
In the course of the arguments, Trump’s lawyers offered an exceptionally broad view of Trump’s immunity from civil lawsuits for his acts as president, claiming that virtually every statement Trump made was “immune.”
“That absolute immunity of the presidency is very important,” Binnall contended.
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