Federal judge dismisses Trump’s claim of ‘presidential immunity’ in 2020 election civil suit

A federal judge has dismissed Donald Trump’s claim that he has “presidential immunity” from a lawsuit over his actions around the 2020 election – in the latest blow to the former president as the fallout over a meeting with Kanye West and a white supremacist continues.

Civil rights groups including the NAACP and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization are suing Mr Trump and the Republican National Committee for civil rights violations in relation to the 2020 presidential election.

The civil lawsuit alleges that Mr Trump tried to disenfranchise voters, intimidate election officials and undermine lawfully cast votes in violation of both the federal Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act.

Mr Trump’s lawyers pushed back on the lawsuit, claiming that he has “absolute immunity” from civil lawsuits as a former president.

But, on Monday, a federal judge in Washington DC disagreed.

In the ruling, US District Judge Emmet Sullivan said that Mr Trump’s alleged actions around the 2020 election were “purely political” and so did not fall under his official duties as president.

“If Former President Trump disrupted the certification of the electoral vote count, as Plaintiffs allege here, such actions would not constitute executive action in defense of the Constitution,” the ruling states.

“For these reasons, the Court concludes that Former President Trump is not immune from monetary damages in this suit.”

The judge went on to warn that Mr Trump’s actions during both the 2020 presidential election and the 2022 midterms could show that he poses a “very substantial risk” to the right to vote.

“President Trump continues to spread false claims about the 2022 elections and continues to attempt to pressure officials into nullifying the election results: Plaintiffs extensively allege the efforts of Former President Trump and his allies as recently as March 2022 to get state officials to overturn the election results; to endorse and provide financial support to candidates for office who supported his false claims of election fraud; all while fundraising for the 2024 Presidential Election. These allegations are perhaps the opposite of what the Trump Defendants term ‘vague suggestions of fear or intimidation,’” the ruling says.

The judge has not yet ruled in the contents of the lawsuit.

Mr Sullivan previously dismissed the plaintiffs’ allegations about a violation of the Voting Rights Act but allowed them to file an amended complaint.

The lawsuit marks just one of many legal battles the former president is facing over his actions surrounding the 2020 election – where he refused to accept he fairly lost to President Joe Biden and peddled lies that the election was “stolen” from him.

Donald Trump speaking at Mar-a-Lago when he launched his 2024 bid (Getty Images)
Donald Trump speaking at Mar-a-Lago when he launched his 2024 bid (Getty Images)

His baseless claims then fuelled a mob of rioters to storm the US Capitol on January 6 2021 in an insurrection that left five people dead and dozens of law enforcement officers injured.

The ruling on this lawsuit comes as Mr Trump is currently under fire for hosting a meeting at Mar-a-Lago last week with Mr West – who has gone on an antisemitic rampage of late – and his associate Nick Fuentes – one of the US’s most notorious white supremacist activists.

Mr Trump has since tried to distance himself from the meeting, claiming he believed he was having a meeting alone with the rapper and that he brought Mr Fuentes along without his prior knowledge.

“I help a seriously troubled man...who has been decimated in his business... by allowing his request for a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, alone,” Mr Trump said of Mr West.

“He shows up with 3 people, two of which I didn’t know, the other a political person who I haven’t seen in years.”

However, Mr Trump has not condemned either of the two men or their antisemitic views.

Several Republicans including former vice president Mike Pence have slammed him over the meeting and called for him to apologise.