Judge Hands Donald Trump The Jan. 6 News That He Wanted


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

A federal judge on Monday adjourned a civil lawsuit brought against former President Donald Trump over the Jan. 6, 2021, riot under a 19th-century law, handing him a delay in the case that he and his legal team sought.

The suit’s lead plaintiff, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), was joined by several other Democrats “who said they were impeded in their duties by the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol,” Newsweek reported.

The case was pursued under an 1871 act designed to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from intimidating members of Congress in the execution of their duties. On Monday, Mehta ruled that “immunity-related discovery” will persist until September 11, 2024.

Following the conclusion of discovery in September, both parties will present their arguments regarding whether Trump is entitled to presidential immunity from the civil lawsuit—a separate matter from the Supreme Court’s examination of presidential immunity from criminal lawsuits. The proceedings for the former could extend over several months.


Newsweek noted that should Trump be given immunity, then the case is over. If presidential immunity is not granted, further discovery on the case’s facts is anticipated, and a trial is unlikely to commence until after the inauguration in January 2025. Trump, who has consistently sought trial delays, could subsequently seek recourse in federal court to postpone the case until after his term in office has concluded.

Newsweek noted further:

On December 4, 2023, Lee had released a statement in which she said “justice is owed to the Congressional staff, Capitol support staff, law enforcement, and members of Congress who feared for their lives on January 6, 2021. I look forward to seeing Mr. Trump in court.”

MSNBC legal correspondent Lisa Rubin, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday that a higher court, the Washington D.C. Circuit, had handed the case back to Mehta after reaffirming that “former presidents are entitled to civil immunity for acts even on the ‘outer perimeter’ of their official duties.


“But they [the D.C. Circuit] held Trump had not yet shown his entitlement to such immunity and would instead have a chance to prove in the lower court that ‘his alleged actions in the run-up to and on January 6 were taken in his official capacity as President,'” she wrote.

“That opinion was handed down on December 1, 2023. And now, in the last days of April, Judge Amit Mehta, the district court judge to whom the case has been assigned, has allowed the parties to conduct ‘immunity-related discovery’ through September 11, 2024,” Rubin added, further claiming that Mehta’s ruling doesn’t bode well for Trump in his D.C. criminal case where he’s been charged by special counsel Jack Smith of election interference following Joe Biden’s victory in 2020.

The election fraud proceedings, overseen by Tanya Chutkan, another D.C. district judge, have been put on hold as the Supreme Court deliberates presidential immunity.

“Now think about the criminal case before Judge Chutkan: In a world where the Supreme Court similarly decides there must be further lower court proceedings to determine whether Trump can mount an immunity defense, can that case be tried before 2025? Increasingly, I think not—and that might be the only win Trump wants or needs,” Rubin wrote.

During oral arguments regarding the question last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch said that former presidents ought to enjoy some immunity from subsequent attacks if they leave office.

“It didn’t matter what the president’s motives were; that’s something courts shouldn’t get engaged in … I am concerned about future uses of criminal law to target political opponents based on accusations about their motives,” the Supreme Court justice, who was Trump’s first of three appointees to the nation’s highest court, said on April 25.

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