Federal Judge Hints Trump May Have to Pay for Hours of Silence During Capital Attack

© AP Photo / Jose Luis MaganaIn this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. U.S.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. U.S. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.01.2022
187 minutes passed between the time a mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol on 6 January 2021 and the moment Donald Trump issued a statement about it. Late last month, the House committee investigating the riots revealed that the president spent much of this time doing retakes of an address urging rioters to leave the legislative chambers.
A federal judge has hinted that former president Donald Trump may be made to bear responsibility for his silence on the day of the Capitol riot.
“You have an almost two-hour window where the president does not say, ‘Stop, get out of the Capitol. This is not what I wanted you to do,’” US District Judge Amit Mehta said Monday in a back-and-forth with Trump’s lawyers on Monday.
“What do I do about the fact the president didn’t denounce the conduct immediately? Isn’t that, from a plausibility standpoint, enough to at least plausibly infer that the president agreed with the conduct of the people that were inside the Capitol that day?” Mehta asked.
Trump attorney Jesse Binnall dismissed Judge Mehta’s line of questioning, arguing that “the president cannot be subject to judicial action for any sort of damages for failing to do something.” Binnall insisted that the former president encouraged supporters to act “peacefully and patriotically” in his speech in front of the White House on 6 January.
Binnall also maintained that Trump was “immune” from civil suits as president.
Joseph Sellers, a lawyer for the claimants, dismissed the immunity claim, suggesting that “by Mr. Binnall’s argument, the president could promote treason in a public forum and the court would be powerless whether his conduct…was immune. That’s just – that’s inconceivable,” he said. The attorney argued that statements made by Trump outside his capacity as president should not be granted immunity.
Mehta made no ruling at the end of Monday’s hearing, which lasted nearly five hours.
Three Civil Suits
The former president’s lawyers are seeking the dismissal of three civil suits launched against Trump seeking damages for the Capitol riot. The first was filed in February 2021 by Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who now serves as chairman of the House 6 January committee. The suit alleges that the storming of the Capitol was the result of a “carefully coordinated campaign to interfere” in the US electoral process, and that Trump was involved.
Two more suits, including one brought by lawmakers and a second by two Capitol Police officers injured in the Capitol violence, were filed later, accusing Trump of “directing” the riot, demanding compensation and listing other administration officials, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., former Trump elections attorney Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers militias, and others as co-defendants.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. U.S. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.01.2022
Trump Lawyers Claim Immunity, Ask Judge to Toss Civil Suits Seeking Damages for Jan. 6 Riot
Judge Mehta has been intimately involved in other Capitol riot-related cases. Last month, the judge rejected a push by 17 members of the Oath Keepers militia to have conspiracy charges against them dropped. Separately, during sentencing of a defendant last year, the judge categorised the man as a “pawn” who had been been “told falsehoods” about the election being stolen and made to serve jail time while “those who created the conditions” and “led the events of January 6 [haven’t been] held to account for their actions and their word.” Mehta was appointed to the District Court for the District of Columbia in 2014 by Barack Obama.
Hundreds of other individuals involved in the Capitol unrest have already been prosecuted and jailed, with prison time ranging from 8 months to 3.5 years. Most of the rioters are charged for “obstruction” for their role in disrupting Congress’s rubber-stamping of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Some Republicans have accused the FBI of helping to organize and coordinate the riots, thus entrapping some of the rioters to commit crimes. US authorities and media have broadly ignored these allegations or dismissed them as a “baseless conspiracy theory.” However, in September, the New York Times reported that at least one FBI informant monitoring the Proud Boys travelled to Washington, DC to take part in the unrest.
Dems Out for Blood
The civil suits against Trump and his allies are one of multiple avenues of attack by Democratic lawmakers seeking at least some kind of legal consequences for the former president’s alleged role in the 6 January violence. Earlier this week, Adam Kinzinger – one of the two ‘Never-Trump’ Republicans on the House 6 January panel, warned that the former president’s action or inaction during the Capitol riots may be branded “criminal behaviour” which needs further investigation.
Late last month, US media reported that Trump could hypothetically face as much as 20 years in jail if the panel charges him with obstruction, and hands a criminal complaint to the Justice Department.
Former Vice President Mike Pence stands for the Pledge of Allegiance during a gathering, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Manchester, N.H.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.01.2022
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So far, all efforts against Trump by the ruling party and neoconservatives in the GOP have fallen through, among them two impeachments, an ongoing legal probe into his business empire, and attempts to declare him legally unfit for office under the 14th or 25th amendments to the US Constitution.
Trump has dismissed all cases against him as a partisan “witch hunt,” and recently took his battle with the House investigators seeking to get his personal records to the Supreme Court.
Democrats have quietly expressed concerns at the prospect of Trump taking another shot at the White House in 2024. The business mogul, who has repeatedly alleged that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him using mail-in vote dumps and tampered voting machines, has hinted over and over that he may do so.
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