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Judge rejects Trump’s ‘absolute immunity’ claim in Jan. 6 cases

Facing Jan. 6 lawsuits from police officers, Team Trump asserted "absolute immunity." A federal judge didn't buy it.


Donald Trump’s list of legal troubles isn’t short. As regular readers know, the former president’s business is facing multiple fraud investigations. He’s also under investigation for having allegedly mishandled classified materials. There’s also an ongoing criminal investigation in Georgia related to his efforts to interfere with election results. There’s also a criminal investigation surrounding his special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

But let’s not forget his Jan. 6 civil cases.

In the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, different sets of police officers, who are still dealing with the adverse physical and mental effects of the pro-Trump riot, sued the former president. (They are among the roughly 140 police officers who suffered injuries as part of the Jan. 6 violence.)

The Republican and his lawyers have spent months trying to have the officers’ civil suits tossed out of court, insisting that he had "absolute immunity" in actions related to his term in office. These efforts have been rejected before, and as NBC News reported, they were rejected again yesterday.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied former President Donald Trump’s bid to dismiss three lawsuits brought by police officers injured in the Jan. 6 riot, rejecting his assertion that he is “absolutely immune” from the claims. The lawsuits, brought on behalf of four U.S. Capitol Police officers, seek to hold Trump liable for emotional and physical injuries they sustained when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and disrupted the electoral vote count.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta didn’t just smack down the argument, he sounded a little annoyed about having to do so again.

“In nearly identically worded motions, President Trump has moved to dismiss all three actions on one ground: he is absolutely immune from suit because the acts complained of fall within the ‘outer perimeter’ of his presidential responsibilities,” the federal judge wrote in a brief ruling.

Mehta noted that he’d rejected similar arguments earlier this year, and “the court does so again.”

Indeed, the way in which the judge has rejected such claims remains of interest. In February, Mehta concluded that Trump’s responsibilities for the riot are difficult to ignore: The then-president, the judge found, called followers to Washington, D.C., and dispatched them to the Capitol, knowing full well that violence was likely to soon follow.

Pointing to the Republican’s own rhetoric, the judge wrote that Trump’s Jan. 6 speech was “akin to telling an excited mob that corn-dealers starve the poor in front of the corn-dealer’s home.”

Six months later, the Republican and his lawyers thought it'd be a good idea to give the same rejected argument another try. Not surprisingly, that didn't work.

To be sure, the issue here is civil litigation, not criminal charges, which may seem to lower the stakes. That said, I’d recommend keeping a couple of things in mind. First, Trump’s earlier civil cases were hardly irrelevant — his fake “university” and fraudulent charity, for example, were brought down as a result of civil litigation — and the Jan. 6 cases may yet prove to be just as significant.

And second, if the former president is ultimately held liable in these officers’ suits, it's at least possible that he’d have to pay damages from his own pocket. Watch this space.