CNN’s senior legal analyst Elie Honig on Friday warned that former President Donald Trump’s latest legal defeat would be “enormously consequential.”
Trump is facing three civil lawsuits after Democratic members of Congress and Capitol police officers sued the former president for inciting the January protest. The former president appealed the lawsuits in the D.C. Court of Appeals, arguing that his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, are shielded by “presidential immunity.” Trump maintained that actions are legally protected because he was acting as president.
The Court of Appeals ruled against Trump, saying his actions were undertaken in an unofficial and private capacity as an office-seeker. Honig, while speaking on CNN, said the ruling was “consequential.”
“When it comes to this notion of immunity, there are some things we do know and some things we do not know. Here’s what we do know: a federal official, the president on down, cannot be sued civilly if the conduct has something to do with their actual job if it has something to do with the president acting as president … But if it’s outside the official job, then yes, you can be sued,” Honig said. “And what the court of appeals has said here is that because what Donald Trump did in and around January 6th was outside the scope of the presidency, yes, he can be sued.”
Honing added that the ruling could also negatively impact the former president’s other criminal cases relating to the January 6 protest.
“Now here’s the bigger issue…Donald Trump is currently making a similar argument with respect to the criminal charges pending against him in Washington, D.C., relating to the 2020 election, and he probably will make similar arguments elsewhere,” Honig added. “We do not yet know, but we may find out whether there is such thing as criminal immunity for a federal official like the president, but this is a really important decision, because even if there is such thing as criminal immunity, now we have a court of appeals saying ‘even if criminal immunity exists, it wouldn’t apply to Donald Trump, because what he did January 6th is outside the scope of his official job as president.”