- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2023

Former President Donald Trump is arguing that he should be immune from lawsuits that say he is to blame for the chaos at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Lawyer Jesse Binnall told an appellate court that Mr. Trump did not incite the crowd in a speech near the White House that day.

Instead, he said Mr. Trump’s call to “fight” referred to political pressure, according to USA Today.

“President Trump’s speech falls well within the broad scope of absolute immunity suggested by [the Department of Justice]. Absolute immunity aims to prevent the President from being subjected to the process of civil litigation,” Mr. Binnall wrote to a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Trump is trying to fend off three lawsuits brought by House Democrats and Capitol Police members. The plaintiffs say Mr. Trump incited the attack with his claims the 2020 election was stolen from him, including in a speech from the Ellipse immediately before the pro-Trump mob descended on the Capitol.

Mr. Binnall’s arguments to the panel come weeks after the Justice Department concluded that the president cannot enjoy outright protection from the lawsuits because “no part of a president’s official responsibilities includes the incitement of imminent private violence.”

The plaintiffs told the appellate court they agree with the Justice Department but “the position of the United States does not go far enough.”

“A president has no business instructing his supporters at any time to obstruct Congress’s efforts to fulfill its certification responsibilities,” they told the court.

Hundreds of people are facing charges or have been sentenced to prison for their actions during the Jan. 6 attack. The mob descended on the Capitol as Congress was trying to certify the electoral votes that clinched President Biden’s victory.

Over 100 officers were injured during the assault. One protester, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer near the House chamber.

One lawsuit filed by House Democrats accuses Mr. Trump of violating the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, which protects lawmakers against violence and intimidation while carrying out their duties. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California filed another suit alleging that Mr. Trump and his associates sparked the riot with false claims of voter fraud and invitations to come to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. Another suit by two Capitol Police officers said Mr. Trump incited the assault with his long-running claims of fraud.

The lawsuits are part of a web of legal issues Mr. Trump is confronting as he runs for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg is presenting evidence to a grand jury of alleged 2016 hush payments to Stormy Daniels, but the timing of a possible indictment remains murky. Mr. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Special counsel Jack Smith is also investigating Mr. Trump’s post-election actions and storage of classified documents in Florida at Mar-a-Lago.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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