A Washington appeals court on Friday ruled that former President Donald Trump can be sued in civil lawsuits related to his actions in the lead-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol. File Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI1 | License Photo
Dec. 1 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that former President Donald Trump is not immune from civil lawsuits regarding his actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol.
The three-judge panel of the appeals court in Washington unanimously agreed that Trump was open to litigation for his conduct in the lead-up to the riots as he was acting as a presidential candidate and not the president.
"When a first-term president opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win re-election is not an official presidential act," Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote.
Srinivasan added that the president "does not spend every minute of every day exercising official responsibilities."
"When he acts outside the functions of his office, he does not continue to enjoy immunity from damages liability just because he happens to be the president," Srinivasan wrote.
The court, however, noted that the decision was a preliminary ruling and Trump's legal team would still have the opportunity to present facts to establish that Trump's presidential immunity covered any actions or statements he made while in office.
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump's campaign said the decision was limited, narrow, and procedural."
"The facts fully show that on Jan. 6 President Trump was acting on behalf of the American people, carrying out his duties as president of the United States," he said.
Two U.S. Capitol police officers and roughly a dozen Democratic legislators are suing Trump for allegedly instigating violence on Jan. 6 by telling them to "fight like hell" to keep their democracy that the election was stolen.
They charged that Trump broke the statute originally meant to target Ku Klux Klan violence by conspiring with members of far-right groups to stop the Electoral College count.
"More than two years later, it is unnerving to hear the same fabrications and dangerous rhetoric that put my life as well as the lives of my fellow officers in danger on Jan. 6, 2021," James Blassingame, a police officer involved in the suit against Trump said. "I hope our case will assist with helping put our democracy back on the right track; making it crystal clear that no person, regardless of title or position of stature is above the rule of law."
Two groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, are being sued along with Trump and longtime Trump ally Rudy Giuliani. Several members of those groups were convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol attack.