Former President Donald Trump on Friday lost an effort to dismiss lawsuits by members of Congress and two police officers accusing him and others of sparking the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and other actions designed to prevent Congress from certifying the election of President Joe Biden.
“President Trump’s January 6 Rally Speech was akin to telling an excited mob that corn-dealers starve the poor in front of the corn-dealer’s home,” wrote Judge Amit Mehta in his decision in federal court in Washington, D.C., against Trump’s motion to dismiss.
Trump in that 2021 speech told a throng of supporters outside the White House “we fight, we fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” before urging them to march to the Capitol and oppose the confirmation of Biden’s victory.
Soon after, thousands of his supporters invaded the Capitol complex and breached the walls of Congress. Lawmakers fled the Senate and House chambers to hide from the mob, delaying for hours votes to certify that Biden had won the Electoral College vote. Five people died in connection with the riot, and scores of police officers physical injuries and emotional damage from fighting against the invaders.
The 112-page ruling by Mehta was Trump’s second major legal loss in two days.
On Thursday, a judge in New York state court ordered Trump and two of his adult children to answer questions under oath by investigators for state Attorney General Letitia James, who is conducting a probe of the former president and the Trump Organization.
A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mehta in his ruling granted requests by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr. to dismiss them as defendants in the lawsuits. The judge said he would grant Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a request to dismiss him as a defendant once that Trump ally formally requests it.
Giuliani, Trump Jr. and Brooks all spoke at then-President Trump’s Jan. 6 rally.
Mehta denied dismissal requests by the far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers, as well as by Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist militia group.
The plaintiffs in the cases are 11 members of the House of Representatives, and two Capitol Police officers, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby.
The suits accuse Trump and the other defendants, including the Proud Boys and the extremist Warboys, of violating the law known as the Ku Klux Act of 1871, which was originally designed to target extra-legal violence by white supremacist groups against freed Blacks in the South after the Civil War.
A section of the law “proscribes conspiracies that, by means of force, intimidation, or threats, prevent federal officers from discharging their duties or accepting or holding office,” Mehta noted.
The lawsuits say that the plaintiffs were the victim of a such a conspiracy in which, “before January 6th, President Trump and his allies purposely sowed seeds of doubt about the validity of the presidential election and promoted or condoned acts of violence by the President’s followers, all as part of a scheme to overturn the November 2020 presidential election,” Mehta wrote.
Trump and others for weeks after the election falsely claimed that he had actually won the race and that Biden’s victory in the Electoral College vote was the result of widespread ballot fraud in a number of swing states.
“Those efforts culminated on January 6th, when the President’s supporters, including organized militia
groups and others, attacked the Capitol building while Congress was in a Joint Session to certify
the Electoral College votes,” Mehta wrote.
The judge in his ruling rejected Trump’s claim that he has absolute immunity from being sued in these cases because his alleged conduct fell within his official presidential responsibilities.
However, Mehta ruled for Trump in dismissing a specific claim by Rep. Eric Swalwell, whose suit, among the broader allegations, says he is owed damages from Trump’s failure to act to prevent the riot.
Blassingame, in a statement on the ruling, said, “It’s good to see that no one is above the law.”
“Everyone should be held accountable for their actions. Hopefully, a jury will see all of the evidence and make the appropriate determination,” Blassingame said.
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