Government lawyers agreed with Trump that presidents are entitled to robust protections against being sued over their official duties. But in a newly filed court brief, they disagreed that the allegations in the Jan. 6 cases against the former president entitle him to immunity at this stage. They didn’t take a position on whether he should ultimately win or lose on the merits.
“In the United States’ view, such incitement of imminent private violence would not be within the outer perimeter of the Office of the President of the United States,” Justice Department lawyers wrote.
Trump has argued that he cannot be sued at all over statements leading up to the 2021 assault because speaking on matters of public concern fell within the “outer perimeter” of his presidential duties.
A statement provided by a Trump representative credited the department with agreeing that “presidential immunity is broad and absolute” and suggested that any ruling that allowed the Jan. 6 cases to go forward could subject President Joe Biden to future lawsuits over his policy decisions.
“The DC Courts should rule for President Trump in short order and dismiss these frivolous lawsuits,” according to the statement. A lead attorney for the plaintiffs suing the former president, Joseph Sellers, declined to comment.
The Justice Department’s position risks legal complications and political blowback. The government has been pulled into litigation over Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection while a federal criminal investigation is underway. The department historically embraced a broad interpretation of the constitutional separation of powers that protects a current or former president from being sued over official acts, so taking a stance against Trump risks allegations of political bias. Bloomberg
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