IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Court case to test Donald Trump's role in inciting violence

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump often seemed to encourage violence against protesters. A court case is poised to test whether he went too far.
President-elect Donald Trump arrives at a rally at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C., Dec. 6, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)
President-elect Donald Trump arrives at a rally at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C., Dec. 6, 2016.

Judge David J. Hale ruled against efforts by Trump's attorneys to throw out a lawsuit accusing him of inciting violence against protesters at a March 2016 campaign rally in Louisville.At the rally, Trump repeatedly said "get 'em out of here" before, according to the protesters, they were shoved and punched by his supporters. Trump's attorneys sought to have the case dismissed on free speech grounds, arguing that he didn't intend for his supporters to use force. But Hale noted that speech inciting violence is not protected by the First Amendment and ruled that there is plenty of evidence that the protesters' injuries were a "direct and proximate result" of Trump's words.

"It is plausible that Trump's direction to 'get 'em out of here' advocated the use of force," Hale wrote. "It was an order, an instruction, a command.... Trump's statement at least implicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action."The judge added that Trump's rhetoric at the time was "particularly reckless."It's too soon to say what will end up happening in the case, and it's still possible the plaintiffs will lose. Friday's decision simply denied the request to have the lawsuit thrown out of court altogether; it wasn't the final ruling.But the development was nevertheless striking. It's the latest instance in which Trump's own public comments have been held against him in a courtroom -- see the Muslim ban, for example -- and it's litigation that may yet hold the president responsible for his role in endorsing violence before his election.