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Federal judge rules lawsuits against Trump for Jan. 6 can proceed

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Federal judge rules lawsuits against Trump for Jan. 6 can proceed
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks to supporters gathered to protest Congress' certification of Joe Biden as the next president on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. File Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A federal judge ruled Friday that lawsuits against Donald Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection can proceed because the former president does not have absolute immunity from litigation.

Judge Amit P. Mehta's ruling comes after 11 lawmakers and two Capitol Police officers filed three lawsuits against Donald Trump and his supporters, including his son Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and organized militia groups such as the Proud Boys and its leader Enrique Tarrio.

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Those who filed lawsuits say Donald Trump, his associates and supporters violated provisions of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which states that federal officials and employees can file lawsuits against conspirators who use force and intimidation to prevent them from their official duties.

The lawmakers and police officers said Donald Trump's followers condoned acts of violence to overturn the November 2020 presidential election after a speech from the president. The former president and other defendants have filed to have the lawsuits thrown out.

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Mehta denied motions to dismiss the lawsuits from Donald Trump, the Oath Keepers militia and Tarrio but approved the dismissal for Donald Trump Jr. and Giuliani.

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"The court concludes that the complaints establish a plausible conspiracy involving President Trump," Mehta wrote. "A civil conspiracy need not involve an express agreement; so, the fact that President Trump is not alleged to have ever met, let alone sat down with, a Proud Boy or an Oath Keeper to hatch a plan is not dispositive."

Mehta noted that Donald Trump and his supporters held the same goal of interrupting Congress from completing the certification of the Electoral College vote for the 2020 presidential election.

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"When he called on them to march to the Capitol, some responded, 'Storm the Capitol.' Thousands marched down Pennsylvania Avenue as directed," Mehta wrote.

He added that "the president's January 6 rally speech can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action" and that Donald Trump's actions -- including prior tweets calling for the election to be overturned and the direction for his supporters to march toward Congress -- were not related to his duties as president.

Mehta ruled that, though Giuliani also spoke at the rally before the insurrection, he "uttered no words that resembled a call to action" and that his comments were "constitutionally protected speech."

"To deny a president immunity from civil damages is no small step. The court well understands the gravity of its decision," Mehta wrote. "But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent, and the court believes that its decision is consistent with the purposes behind such immunity."

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