Judge Says Trump's Political Actions Around 2020 Election Not Protected by 'Absolute Immunity'

Katelyn Polantz / CNN
Judge Says Trump's Political Actions Around 2020 Election Not Protected by 'Absolute Immunity' Donald Trump. (photo: Erin Schaff/NYT/Redux)

A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Monday said that Donald Trump doesn’t have “absolute immunity,” as the former president claimed he should, in response to a lawsuit in its early stages related to Trump’s actions around the 2020 presidential election.

Civil rights groups have sued Trump for trying to disenfranchise voters. While Trump’s lawyers argue he can’t be held liable in civil lawsuits because of immunity around the presidency, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the DC District Court on Monday disagreed.

Sullivan is simply allowing the NAACP and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization to rewrite their lawsuit against Trump. The judge hasn’t determined yet whether Trump is actually liable for what they claim.

Sullivan said Trump’s political conduct wouldn’t be part of his official duties, giving him less legal protection.

“If Former President Trump disrupted the certification of the electoral vote count, as Plaintiffs allege here, such actions would not constitute executive action in defense of the Constitution. For these reasons, the Court concludes that Former President Trump is not immune from monetary damages in this suit,” Sullivan wrote.

Still, Sullivan had harsh words about Trump’s response to the 2020 and 2022 elections. That combative response, Sullivan wrote, could show that Trump could still “pose a very substantial risk in the future to Plaintiffs’ fundamental right to vote.”

“President Trump continues to spread false claims about the 2022 elections and continues to attempt to pressure officials into nullifying the election results: Plaintiffs extensively allege the efforts of Former President Trump and his allies as recently as March 2022 to get state officials to overturn the election results; to endorse and provide financial support to candidates for office who supported his false claims of election fraud; all while fundraising for the 2024 Presidential Election. These allegations are perhaps the opposite of what the Trump Defendants term ‘vague suggestions of fear or intimidation,’” the judge wrote.

Others in addition to the civil rights groups have sued Trump related to January 6.

A separate but similar set of cases is currently before the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, where Trump is arguing he has absolute immunity from actions he took while serving as president. The arguments in that case are scheduled for next week.

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