Donald Trump speaks to followers outside the White House, January 6 (Tasos Katopodis/Getty)
US District Judge Amit Mehta has said that evidence indicates Donald Trump assembled and instructed supporters to march on the US Capitol, just before the attack on January 6, 2021.
In a 112-page ruling, Mehta rejected Trump’s attempt to dismiss multiple lawsuits accusing him of legal responsibility for the assault. The judge said Trump knew that his audience likely included violent and destructive people and groups.
Mehta also cited Trump’s Twitter diatribe against Vice President Mike Pence, calling on him to block the January 6 Congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden. The tweets accompanied a plot, rejected by Pence, for the Vice President to throw out Biden’s electors and send the decision to the US House of Representatives.
In his January 6 speech outside the White House, Trump said, “Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you.”
Mehta ruled, “It is reasonable to infer that the President would have understood the impact of his tweet, since he had told rally-goers earlier that, in effect, the Vice President was the last line of defense against a stolen election outcome.”
See also Trump Admits Plot for Pence to Overturn Biden’s Election
The judge said Trump faces civil liability over his behavior:
To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step. The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent, and the court believes that its decision is consistent with the purposes behind such immunity….
The President’s January 6 Rally Speech can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action. The President’s regular use of the word ‘we’ is notable. To name just a few examples: “We will not take it anymore”; “We will stop the steal”; “We will never give up”; “We will never concede”; “We will not take it anymore”; “All Mike Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become President.”
Trump also may face civil prosecution over his financial and business affairs. Earlier this week, a judge ruled that he, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump must testify in a case over alleged fraud by the Trump Organization. A letter revealed that Trump’s accountants Mazars USA have broken with him, saying his financial records are not reliable.
A House select committee on the Capitol Attack is also building a case. Scores of witnesses have testified, despite Trump’s commands to former staff to defy subpoenas.
See also House Committee on Capitol Attack Subpoenas Trump Plotter Peter Navarro
Mehta was ruling over lawsuits broght against Trump were brought by a dozen Democratic members of Congress and by multiple Capitol Police officers who were injured in the attack. Filings accuse Trump of joining in a civil conspiracy with far-right groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
The suits also name Donald Trump Jr.; Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, both of whom whipped up the audience before Trump’s January 6 speech; and Oath Keepers and Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio. In his ruling, Mehta dropped the cases against Trump Jr., Giuliani, and Brooks.