Judge checks Trump lawyers for claiming he urged peace on 6 January: ‘Let’s stick with the facts’

‘So the president, in your view, is both immune to inciting the riot and failing to stop it?’

Sravasti Dasgupta
Tuesday 11 January 2022 09:53 GMT
Expert says Trump can’t invoke executive privilege against 6 January committee

A federal judge has rejected claims by Donald Trump’s lawyers that he urged his supporters to remain peaceful on 6 January during the Capitol riot last year.

“Let’s stick with the facts,” US district judge Amit Mehta asked attorneys on Monday, adding that he was not interested in “whataboutism,” according to Business Insider.

Mr Mehta said that for a “two-hour period” on the day of the insurrection, the former president did not “take to Twitter or to any other type of communication and say, ‘Stop. Get out of the Capitol. What you are doing is not what I wanted you to do’.

“What would you have me do with the allegation that the [former] president did not act?”

The judge made the statements during a five-hour hearing in Washington on three civil lawsuits filed by House Democrats and Capitol police officers that allege Mr Trump’s violent rhetoric incited the insurrection.

The civil suits are running parallel to an investigation by a House of Representatives select committee.

The judge also referred to Mr Trump’s statement at a rally before the riots broke out, where he said: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Mr Mehta asked if the former president’s silence and inaction could be considered a “ratification” of that statement.

Mr Trump’s lawyers said his silence could not be considered inaction.

“The president cannot be subject to judicial action for any sort of damages for failing to do something,” said Jesse Binnall, one of his attorneys, during the hearing.

He also said Mr Trump had asked his supporters to “peacefully” make their voices heard on 6 January. An unnamed former aide, however, had told CNN that the former president had initially refused to tweet the words “stay peaceful”.

“So the president, in your view, is both immune to inciting the riot and failing to stop it?” Mr Mehta asked.

The judge also countered Joseph Sellers, a lawyer for the House Democrats who claimed that Mr Trump knew what his supporters were going to do after the rally.

Mr Mehta said a conspiracy by the former president could be “problematic” as the lawsuit did not allege any direct meetings between Mr Trump and his then-lawyer Rudy Giuliani and far-right groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

Mr Trump’s lawyers defended him and said that he was acting within his official rights and that he had no intention of inciting the violence that followed on that day.

The select committee, in its own investigation, is exploring whether the former president “through action or inaction” wanted to stop Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020.

Communications, made public by the committee, reveal that Fox News hosts as well as the former president’s son urged him to issue a statement to stop the violence.

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