By Andrew Goudsward
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. appeals court on Friday ruled that Donald Trump must face civil lawsuits over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by his supporters, rejecting the former president’s claim that he is immune.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that Trump was acting “in his personal capacity as a presidential candidate” when he urged his supporters to march to the Capitol. U.S. presidents are immune from civil lawsuits only for official actions.
The ruling clears the way for Trump to face lawsuits from U.S. Capitol police officers and Democratic lawmakers seeking to hold Trump responsible for the violence by his supporters during the riot, which was an attempt to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
The case is one of several civil and criminal challenges Trump is currently facing, while being the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 election.
The unanimous decision focused only on whether Trump could be sued, and said nothing about the merits of the cases themselves.
Trump has made a similar immunity argument in the federal criminal case accusing him of illegally conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election. A judge has not yet ruled on the issue in that case.
While the ruling on Friday explicitly stated it was not weighing in on Trump’s possible criminal immunity, both cases involve Trump’s conduct before and during the Capitol riot.
(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)