Trump can be sued for inciting the Capitol riots, court rules

Former president’s actions as a candidate seeking re-election are not protected by presidential immunity, the court ruled

Graig Graziosi
Friday 01 December 2023 18:05 GMT
Related video: Donald Trump enters New York courtroom to testify in civil fraud trial

A US appeals court has ruled that Donald Trump can be sued for inciting the Capitol riot.

The judgement was passed down today in US District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Mr Trump's attorneys attempted to use "presidential immunity" to shield him from civil action resulting from his incitement of the Capitol riot.

The appeals court was asked to determine whether Mr Trump has “demonstrated an entitlement to official-act immunity for his actions leading up to and on January 6 as alleged in the complaints.”

“We answer no, at least at this stage of the proceedings,” they wrote in a ruling on Friday.

Presidents typically cannot face civil litigation stemming from actions they take while fulfilling the duties of their office. However, seeking a second term of office is not the same as fulfilling the duties of that office, according to the court’s ruling.

“When a first-term President opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win re-election is not an official presidential act. The Office of the Presidency as an institution is agnostic about who will occupy it next. And campaigning to gain that office is not an official act of the office,” the court determined.

“So, when a sitting President running for a second term attends a private fundraiser for his re-election effort, hires (or fires) his campaign staff, cuts a political ad supporting his candidacy, or speaks at a campaign rally funded and organized by his re-election campaign committee, he is not carrying out the official duties of the presidency. He is acting as office-seeker, not office-holder – no less than are the persons running against him when they take precisely the same actions in their competing campaigns to attain precisely the same office.”

Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote that “the President…does not spend every minute of every day exercising official responsibilities.”

“And when he acts outside the functions of his office, he does not continue to enjoy immunity from damages liability just because he happens to be the President,” the judge ruled.

Mr Trump was sued by two US Capitol police officers who were injured when his supporters attacked the Capitol on 6 January, 2021.

The former president argued he was immune from the litigation, but the Department of Justice refused to back his position back in March.

Now he is open to any number of civil lawsuits stemming from the events of 6 January.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in