Donald Trump's spokesperson on Thursday hailed a Department of Justice legal brief that in fact represented a significant legal blow regarding Jan. 6 lawsuits against him.
The Department of Justice has "rightfully agreed that presidential immunity is broad and absolute," Trump's statement flatly declared. The former president has claimed that he has complete, "categorical" immunity for any action while he was in the White House.
But the DOJ urged a federal appeals court Thursday to reject Trump’s sweeping claim of immunity from several civil suits linked to his actions and statements on Jan. 6, 2021. “The United States respectfully submits that the Court should reject that categorical argument,” it wrote.
It noted in its 32-page brief that "absolute immunity" only applies to a president's "official acts" — and not to actions outside of those duties.
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It indicated the president is not protected if it can be demonstrated that he "precipitated the ... attack on the Capitol" on Jan. 6, 2021, or that his speech "encouraged imminent private violent action."
While the DOJ "expresses no view on the truth of the allegations in plaintiffs' complaints" in the suits, in the "United States' view, such incitement of imminent private violence would not [even] be within the outer perimeter of the [duties of the] Office of the President."
The Trump statement insisted he "repeatedly called for peace, patriotism, and respect for our men and women of law enforcement" that day. The statement didn't mention Trump telling his supporters ahead of the riot to march on the Capitol and "fight like hell."
The statement also claimed Trump authorized up to 20,000 National Guard troops to ensure peace, but that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) "rejected that offer." None of that is true.
If presidential immunity were not "absolute," President Joe Biden would be "personally liable for disasters in Afghanistan [and] our Southern Border," the Trump statement, though U.S. actions in Afghanistan and on the Southern Border would reasonably be considered part of a president's official duties.