President-elect Donald Trump arrives at a rally at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C., Dec. 6, 2016.
Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP

Both sides blame Trump in case about campaign-season violence

One of the more alarming aspects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was his tacit embrace of violence as a legitimate tool at his rallies. In ways without precedent in modern American politics, the Republican candidate often seemed a little too eager to encourage vicious behavior.

After one protester at a Trump rally was punched by one of the candidate’s supporters, for example, Trump declared, “Maybe he deserved to get roughed up.” On other occasions, Trump promised to “pay for the legal fees” for supporters who “knock the hell” out of protesters.

And as we recently discussed, three protesters were physically assaulted at a Trump event in Kentucky in 2016, and they later filed suit, alleging the president bears some responsibility for encouraging the confrontation and insisting that inciting violence is not protected speech under the First Amendment.

A federal judge recently agreed to allow the case to proceed, and late Friday, the president’s attorneys argued that by virtue of winning the election, Trump was given immunity from lawsuits like these. The Washington Post reported:
“Mr. Trump is immune from suit because he is President of the United States,” his lawyers wrote Friday, rebutting a complaint filed by three protesters who claimed Trump incited a riot against them at a Louisville event in March 2016.

Trump’s team challenged the accusations – negligence and incitement to riot – on many other grounds, too. But a federal judge already rejected their attempt to have the lawsuit thrown out earlier this month.
As it turns out, the protesters who were assaulted in Kentucky didn’t just sue Trump; they’re also seeking damages against one of the Trump supporters who allegedly assaulted them.

And that’s where the story gets even more interesting.

Alvin Bamberger, who was seen on video shoving the protesters at the March 2016 rally, is defending himself in the same litigation, and his attorney argued on Friday that the plaintiffs are largely correct about Trump’s culpability.

Bamberger’s lawyer wrote said his client “would not have acted as he did without Trump and/or the Trump Campaign’s specific urging and inspiration.” As the Post’s report added, Bamberger also accepted as true the plaintiff’s claims that Trump’s speech “was calculated to incite violence” against the protesters. In fact, Bamberger wants Trump to pay his damages if the case goes against him.

In other words, the people who were assaulted and one of the people accused of doing the assaulting are effectively saying the same thing: “Yep, Trump’s to blame.”

As for Trump’s lawyers claiming immunity “because he is president of the United States,” no one seriously expects that argument to work.

It’s a case worth watching, especially if/when the case enters the deposition phase.

Postscript: In February 2016, the month before the event in Louisville, Trump told an Iowa crowd, “So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously, okay, just knock the hell. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees; I promise, I promise.” Keep this quote in mind as the case proceeds.

Second Postscript: All of this is unfolding, by the way, while Trump’s lawyers also try to shield him from a defamation civil suit, filed by one of the women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

Donald Trump

Both sides blame Trump in case about campaign-season violence