Former President Donald Trump can be sued by injured Capitol Police officers and Democratic lawmakers over the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol, the Justice Department said on Thursday in an ongoing federal court case testing the limits of executive power.
While a president has the legal authority to communicate with the public on important matters, “no part of a President's official responsibilities includes the incitement of imminent private violence. By definition, such conduct plainly falls outside the President's constitutional and statutory duties,” the department said.
The January 6 committee accused Trump of breaching four federal criminal statutes including conspiring against the government over his attempt to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election. However, the brief was filed by lawyers in the Justice Department's Civil Division and has no bearing on a separate criminal investigation by a department special counsel into whether Trump can be criminally charged over efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election ahead of the Capitol riot.
In fact, the lawyers note that they are not taking a position with respect to potential criminal liability for Trump or anyone else.
A federal judge in Washington last year rejected efforts by Trump to toss out the conspiracy lawsuits filed by lawmakers and two Capitol police officers, saying in his ruling that the former president's words “plausibly” led to the riot on January 6, 2021. US District Court Judge Amit Mehta said in his ruling that Trump's words during a rally before the violent storming of the US Capitol were likely “words of incitement not protected by the First Amendment”.
Trump had addressed his supporters in Washington DC and asked them to converge on the US Capitol, which was considered as incitement to the violence that erupted later that day.
The lawsuits, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, and later joined by other House Democrats, argued that Trump and others made “false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the Defendant's express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the US Capitol".
What happened on January 6, 2021 on US Capitol?
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to prevent the confirmation of US election result and overturn the result in Trump's favour. At least one police officer and one attacker died from injuries directly sustained in the violence.
Trump supporters, several of them armed, attacked the security personnel at US Capitol and disrupted the Congressional proceedings. They took control of the chambers and are believed to have had the objective of overturning the election and declaring Trump as the winner.
(With AP inputs)