The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that it doesn’t back former President Donald Trump’s argument that he has absolute immunity from civil lawsuits in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol breach.
In a court filing submitted (pdf) on March 2 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, DOJ lawyers wrote that Trump’s lawyers “advance only a single, categorical argument: A President is always immune from any civil suits based on his ‘speech on matters of public concern’ … even if that speech also constitutes incitement to imminent private violence.”
“The United States respectfully submits that the Court should reject that categorical argument.” the DOJ wrote. “And because that is the only argument the former President has pressed on appeal, the Court could affirm the district court’s order on that narrow ground without attempting to comprehensively define the boundaries of the President’s immunity for his speech on matters of public concern—including when and how to draw a line between the President’s official and electoral speech.”
The DOJ made the filing in response to consolidated cases including lawsuits launched by several members of Congress and U.S. Capitol Police officers, who are attempting to hold Trump liable for what they say are psychological and physical injuries.
The March 2 filing from the DOJ doesn’t back any claims that the dozen or so lawmakers made in alleging that Trump incited the U.S. Capitol breach. Instead, the filing notes that DOJ lawyers “plausibly allege” Trump’s speech triggered the breach.
“The United States does not express any view regarding the potential criminal liability of any person for the events of January 6, 2021, or acts connected with those events,” DOJ lawyers stipulated in a footnote.
A 1982 Supreme Court ruling argued that presidents are absolutely immune from civil damages that come via their official acts as president.