Trump says he can't be sued for violence at his rallies because he won the US election
Last year, protesters from a campaign rally sued Donald Trump - claiming the future United States president urged his supporters to assault them.
Now Trump is the president, of course. And while the lawsuit grinds on, with more accusations added last week, he claims he won immunity along with the election.
“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 Trump incited a riot against them at a Louisville event in March 2016.
Trump’s team challenged the accusations - negligence and incitement to riot - on many other grounds, too.
But a federal judge already rejected their attempt to have the lawsuit thrown out earlier this month.
And in another new filing in the same case, a Trump supporter accused of assaulting protesters agreed with the plaintiffs that Trump wanted a riot - while denying he actually harmed anyone.
Watch: Trump supporter Alvin Bamberger pushes protester through a jeering crowd
Alvin Bamberger, who was seen in a video pushing a protester through a jeering crowd at the Louisville convention centre, “would not have acted as he did without Trump and/or the Trump Campaign’s specific urging and inspiration,” Bamberger’s lawyer wrote.
Bamberger denied “shoving . . . and striking” anyone, as the lawsuit accuses him of. But he admitted to touching plaintiff Kashiya Nwanguma, a 21-year-old college student who had gone to the rally with a protest sign.
And he accepted as true her claims that Trump’s speech “was calculated to incite violence” against 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,” reads Bamberger’s filing, which asks that Trump be forced to pay his damages, if he’s found liable.
The Washington Post has chronicled Trump’s history of tough talk from the podium, and violent rallies that followed him on his path to the Republican nomination.
“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 scattered commands: “Get them out,” “get him the hell out,” “don’t hurt them”.
“If I say, ‘Don’t hurt them,’ then the press says, ‘Well, Trump isn’t as tough as he used to be,’ ” he said at one point.
Somewhere in the midst of this, a video shows Bamberger, 75, and a man named Matthew Heimbach jostling Nwanguma - a black woman in a sea of white men.
Shortly after the incident, Bamberger wrote an apologetic letter to a radio station, recalling the rally as orderly until “Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them out,’ ” and chaos ensued.
Weeks later, Nwanguma and two other protesters sued Trump, Bamberger and Heimbach.
The latter two had assaulted them, they claimed. Trump - through his words that day and at previous rallies - had allegedly ordered them to do so.
Trump’s lawyers denied all this and sought to have the lawsuit tossed out - claiming the candidate had not been talking to the crowd when he said “get them out.”
Bamberger, who faces a claim of assault and battery, also sought to have the lawsuit dismissed. But after a federal judge allowed it to proceed earlier this month, he 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.”
He laughed out loud when asked about Trump’s claim of presidential immunity, pointing to a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that held President Bill Clinton could be sued over events that occurred before he was took office.
While the judge has not yet set a timetable for the expected trial, Belzley said his team would begin requesting campaign documents and other evidence they hope will show that Trump knew his words could provoke violence.
And 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.”