- A federal judge ruled that Trump can be held civilly liable for the Capitol riot.
- He also said Trump does not have absolute immunity from civil suits.
- "The court well understands the gravity of its decision," the ruling said. "But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent."
A federal judge ruled on Friday that former President Donald Trump can be held civilly liable for the deadly Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
Trump's speech before his supporters stormed the Capitol, during which he called on them to "fight like hell" against the 2020 election results, "can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action," US District Judge Amit Mehta wrote in a 112-page ruling. He pointed to specific statements in which Trump used the word "we," including:
- "We will not take it anymore."
- "We will stop the steal."
- "We will never give up."
- "We will never concede."
- "All Mike Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president."
- "We're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue."
The word "we" being "used repeatedly in this context implies that the President and rally-goers would be acting together toward a common goal," Mehta wrote. "That is the essence of a civil conspiracy."
The focus of Mehta's ruling were three civil lawsuits brought against Trump by Democratic lawmakers and Capitol Police officers who defended the building on January 6.
The judge ruled on Friday that Trump is not immune from the litigation and can be held accountable for his actions and statements related to the Capitol riot. Mehta acknowledged the import of his decision but said that the events of January 6 were unprecedented.
"To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step," the ruling said. "The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent."
Mehta also noted that Trump was not acting in his capacity as president when he held the rally and told his supporters to march to the Capitol.
"After all, the President's actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch," the ruling said. "They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President's broad immunity are not present here."
The judge also said that the allegations in the civil lawsuits against Trump are enough to establish "a plausible … conspiracy involving President Trump." That conspiracy includes the far-right groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6, Mehta added.
He highlighted that a "civil conspiracy" does not require an express agreement between those involved.
"A tacit agreement — one that is 'implied or indicated … but not actually expressed' — is enough," the ruling said. "The key is that the conspirators share the same general conspiratorial objective, or a single plan the essential nature and general scope of which is known to all conspirators."
Friday's ruling is a major blow to Trump and comes in the wake of several other legal losses. On Thursday, a Manhattan judge ruled that Trump and his two eldest children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, must sit for depositions in the New York attorney general Tish James' ongoing investigation into whether the Trump Organization violated banking, tax, and insurance laws.
And earlier this week, Trump's longtime accounting firm cut ties with him after concluding that, in the wake of James' recent findings, ten years of Trump's financial statements "should no longer be relied upon."