Last week, defeated former president, Donald Trump asked a federal court to dismiss three civil lawsuits against him brought by California Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell, a group of other House Democrats, and Capitol police officers, according to an article published by The Hill on Monday.
The writer, Catherine J. Ross, points out that “each suit seeks monetary damages for Trump’s role in fomenting the armed invasion of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, including the barrage of falsehoods that Trump churned out about a ‘stolen election.’ The complaints also point to Trump’s call to ‘fight like hell’ at the Save America rally that day.”
Ross explains that “if the plaintiffs win these lawsuits, Trump is at risk of being ordered to pay millions of dollars to the individual victims of the Jan. 6 rampage. Large punitive damage awards can achieve at least partial justice, as they did last November when the organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., were ordered to pay $26 million to their victims.”
The lawsuits are set to move forward as Trump lawyers failed to offer a single hypothetical exception when U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta asked them whether there was “anything the president could say” that would prevent the court from holding him accountable in a civil suit.
Ross writes that Mehta should rule against Trump on each of the core legal claims, pointing out “the fatal flaws in Trump’s legal arguments in these three civil cases.”
“First, having little to work with, Trump’s lawyers resorted to yet another incantation of ‘executive privilege.’ But executive privilege exists so that presidents can freely exchange ideas and policy considerations with close advisors. It does not apply to what a president says in public. All evidentiary privileges evaporate after the statements are shared outside the confidential relationship,” Ross explains.
She added” “The second argument may turn on whether Trump’s exhortations to the crowd — including ‘fight like hell’ — were within the scope of the president’s official duties and entitled to immunity or something else altogether. That something else might be characterized as campaign speech (as Trump’s attorneys argued) or speech that the First Amendment doesn’t protect, like incitement or expression that furthers a crime (e.g. conspiracy, sedition, or insurrection).”
“Third, the proposition that the First Amendment contemplates a president claiming ‘enhanced’ free speech rights is preposterous on its face. The speech clause limits the government’s ability to censor or punish expression — it does not generally distinguish based on status. Even if such a distinction were contemplated, the former president’s baseless claim is topsy-turvy. The speech clause exists in large part to protect dissidents, the disempowered and those who speak truth to power. The powerful need no special protection, ” Ross concluded.
Ross went on to say that “Even when Trump’s legal position is barely tenable, his goal, as we see again and again, is to block information from emerging through documents and depositions, and to stall any day of reckoning for as long as possible.