Donald Trump’s shield of immunity was so omnipotent that he would be protected from lawsuits even if he had called on his followers to burn down Congress while in office, his lawyer argued stunningly in a federal appeals court.
Attorney Jesse Binnall insisted Trump would be immune from lawsuit in a series of extreme scenarios presented to him Wednesday at a hearing before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The court is determining whether two police officers and 11 congressional Democrats can indict Trump for what they describe as conspiracy to block Congressional certification of the 2020 election results on January 6 last year.
The complaints centered on Trump’s tweets urging supporters to come to Washington, his lies that the election was stolen, and his comments to supporters in a rally day speech to “fight like hell” and to to march on the Capitol.
A 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ruled that presidents cannot be sued for their official actions. But U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled in February that Trump’s inflammatory speech before the Capitol riots was not part of the then-president’s duties, allowing the lawsuits to proceed. Binnall challenged that ruling on Wednesday.
Asked by Chief Justice Sri Srinivasan whether a president would be immune from lawsuits even if he urged his supporters to intimidate citizens at polling stations to prevent them from voting, Binnall said yes, while also admitting that such behavior is “appalling would be, Bloomberg reported. .
Binnall also defended presidential civil immunity when asked by Judge Greg Katsas about a president who hypothetically called for “burning down Congress.” However, Binnall noted that a president could “theoretically” face criminal charges (but not lawsuits) in such a case, Reuters reported.
Katsas noted that the case against Trump involved “at the very least colorable” — possibly justified — allegations that he incited the mob that stormed the Capitol last year.
Still, Binnall insisted that a president would not be subject to civil lawsuits, even if it were found that the president was “trying to destroy our constitutional system.”
He claimed Trump’s incendiary rhetoric against the election he lost was simply part of his right to voice his position from the “bully pulpit” of the presidency.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph Sellers argued that Trump “is not entitled to the immunity he seeks because his conduct interrupted the peaceful transition of power,” ABC News reported.
The lawsuits at the center of the appeal center on violations of the Ku Klux Klan law, which protects federal officials and employees from conspiratorial acts aimed at preventing them from performing their duties.