President Donald Trump’s lawyers are working double time to get yet another lawsuit against him dismissed, even going so far as to claim that he can’t be sued because he is president of the United States.
Yet a federal judge ruled earlier this month that three protesters who claim they were roughed up at one of Trump’s campaign rallies can, in fact, sue him for encouraging his supporters to hurt them.
“Mr. Trump is immune from suit because he is President of the United States,” his lawyers wrote Friday, rebutting a complaint filed by three protesters who claimed that Trump incited a riot against them at a Louisville, Ky., event in March 2016.
And in a most interesting twist, one of the men named in the lawsuit along with the president says that he agrees with the plaintiffs—that is, Trump encouraged bodily harm to the protesters.
The Washington Post reports that Alvin Bamberger, 75, who was seen in a video pushing a protester, 21-year-old Kashiya Nwanguma, during the rally in Louisville, said that he “would not have acted as he did without Trump and/or the Trump Campaign’s specific urging and inspiration,” Bamberger’s lawyer wrote.
He also filed a lawsuit against Trump in federal court Friday, reports CNN.
Bamberger, an Ohio resident dressed in a military uniform on the day of the incident, admits “touching” Nwanguma but not hitting or shoving her. He also agreed that Trump’s speech that night “was calculated to incite violence” against the protesters.
At some rallies, the lawsuit says, Trump and his campaign “promised to pay the legal fees of those who—following Trump’s urgings—removed the protesters.”
“Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump and/or the Trump Campaign repeatedly urged people attending Trump political rallies to remove individuals who were voicing opposition,” Bamberger’s filing reads. It also asks that Trump be forced to pay his damages if Bamberger is found liable.
As for the president, his own words along the campaign trail may come back to haunt him.
“I’d like to punch him in the face,” Trump once said of a protester at a rally in Las Vegas, for example.
A week later, when protesters interrupted Trump in Louisville, the candidate responded with commands such as, “Get them out,” “Get him the hell out,” but also, “Don’t hurt them.” That was the rally where Bamberger and a man named Matthew Heimbach pushed Nwanguma back and forth.
Weeks later, Nwanguma and two other protesters, Molly Shah and Henry Brousseau, sued Trump, Bamberger and Heimbach.
Trump’s lawyers initially sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, claiming that the candidate had not been talking to the crowd when he said “get them out.”
But after federal Judge David Hale said it’s plausible that the would-be president incited a riot, he allowed the suit to proceed. Bamberger countered Trump’s claims that the candidate was not responsible for what his supporters did.
“At the Louisville political rally at issue in this lawsuit, Trump and/or the Trump Campaign urged people attending the rally to remove the protesters,” Bamberger’s lawyers wrote. He “had no prior intention to act as he did.”
“That is extremely significant,” said Greg Belzley, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “It is fairly unusual to have a person who is engaged in violent misconduct ... actually point the finger at the person and identify the person who caused him to do what he did.”
As for presidential immunity, the Post reports that Belzley actually laughed out loud and noted a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that held President Bill Clinton could be sued over events that occurred before he took office.
They also said they are preparing to put the president under oath as the lawsuit moves toward trial.
“The key is going to be his deposition,” Belzley said, “which we intend to pursue.”