Using presidential immunity, Trump’s lawyers appealed a lower court’s ruling that rejected his request to dismiss the case. According to his lawyers, a simple but important constitutional question regarding the separation of powers needs to be addressed in this appeal. Whether the scope of the presidential immunity extends beyond the outer perimeters of presidential responsibilities or whether the immunity can be undercut in the event that the presidential act in question is unpopular with the judiciary. In addition, they pointed out that the Supreme Court has already answered this question, holding that the immunity stems from the constitutional separation of powers. This issue is significant to the President because he deals with controversial issues that arouse strong feelings.
Three consolidated lawsuits were filed against Trump by two Capitol Police officers, 11 House Democrats, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, and a Democrat from California, regarding comments he made before and during the Ellipse rally last year. Both police officers and congressional Democrats argued the former President instigated the mob of supporters to violently storm the Capitol in violation of federal and D.C. laws. Responding to the civil suits, Trump asked the district court to dismiss the lawsuits. In February, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled Trump could be held civilly liable for the attack, owing to several calls to action he made at the Ellipse before the riot and that the civil cases could go forward.
Trump’s legal team filed an appeal Wednesday addressing this. It argued that the court erred in holding that President Trump’s speech on matters of public concern fell outside the scope of his presidential immunity.
According to Trump’s attorneys, in an increasingly polarized political environment, the judiciary must draw clear lines that it will not cross regarding overstepping in regulating executive functions. Accordingly, it is essential to avoid allowing the judicial department to pass judgment on the President’s political statements and discourse.
When asked if indicting a former president would further divide the country, Attorney General Merrick Garland responded that the Department of Justice would do everything in its power to pursue justice “without fear or favor.” Garland also indicated that the department would hold accountable anyone who interfered with the lawful transfer of power after January 6.
Trump’s legal team believes that he acted within the normal course of presidential business on January 6 by addressing the 2020 election integrity in an open, honest, and constructive manner. Additionally, the lawyers for Trump argued that examining his tweets and statements about electoral fraud violated his executive authority. Using his bully pulpit, Trump raised questions about the election’s integrity.
Trump’s attorneys contend that the appeal is simple. The topic of President Trump’s contested speech was a matter of critical public concern, which falls well within the outer perimeter of the President’s official duties, and the violence of January 6, 2021, cannot be used to justify a constitutional exception. This attempt to undermine absolute immunity is all the more important because the event is so emotionally charged and controversial.