Former President Donald Trump can be sued by police or lawmakers for the assault on the Capitol that occurred on January 6, 2021, the Justice Department declared Thursday.
The department's position, that Trump is not immune from litigation in this case, was presented in filings with a federal appeals court.
The department wrote that while a president has broad authority to communicate with the public on issues of national concern, “no part of a president's official responsibilities includes inciting imminent private violence. By its nature, such conduct is clearly outside the official and constitutional duties of a president."
The document is signed by lawyers from the department's Civil Affairs Division and does not affect the separate criminal investigation into whether Trump can be criminally prosecuted for his attempts to reverse the election results. In fact, the lawyers stress that they are not taking a position on the criminal vulnerability of Trump or anyone else.
A federal judge in Washington last year rejected Trump's attempts to dismiss lawsuits filed by lawmakers and two Capitol Police officers, saying the former president's remarks "probably" led to the siege on the congressional palace.
In his ruling, Judge Amit Mehta said Trump's words at the rally leading up to the violence were likely "words of incitement that are not protected by the First Amendment."
The lawsuits were filed by Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell and officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, though other Democratic representatives later joined.
The lawsuit alleges that Trump and others made "false and inflammatory allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to calls for violence made by the defendant at the rally, a violent mob attacked the US Capitol."