(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump can’t claim presidential immunity to avoid a lawsuit that accuses him of civil rights violations in his efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 election, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Trump had argued that he was “absolutely immune” from damages for actions within the “outer perimeter” of his official duties as president, and that his post-election activities in 2020 were part of an effort to protect and defend the Constitution.
But US District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington agreed with the challengers -- the NAACP and Michigan voters and advocates -- that Trump’s conduct was “purely political,” according to the ruling.
“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,” Sullivan said. “For these reasons, the Court concludes that Former President Trump is not immune from monetary damages.”
The judge granted a motion by the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint against Trump and the Republican National Committee, but has yet to determine whether they are liable for civil rights violations.
Trump attorney Jesse Binnall and RNC lawyer David Warrington, who also is also representing Trump in his lawsuit challenging a subpoena from the Jan. 6 congressional committee, didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
It’s the latest such ruling against Trump’s immunity claims on the DC federal court. In February, US District Judge Amit Mehta ruled Trump must face lawsuits seeking to hold the former president legally responsible for the violence and disruption at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress met to certify President Joe Biden’s win.
The case before Sullivan predates the Jan. 6 attack. The plaintiffs accuse Trump and the RNC of violating the federal Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act by conspiring to disenfranchise voters, intimidate election officials and broadly undermine lawfully cast ballots.
Sullivan previously dismissed the Voting Rights Act claim, finding the plaintiffs didn’t show that any alleged harm by Trump and the RNC was ongoing. The plaintiffs asked to file an updated complaint with more information detailing what they alleged was Trump’s continuing efforts to undermine the 2020 results and “interfere in upcoming elections.” Sullivan found that this time, the claim could go forward.
“The Court concludes that Plaintiffs’ allegations support severe, substantial harm from Former President Trump’s ongoing and continued efforts to intimidate officials, spread false claims of fraud, and imperil the right to vote,” Sullivan wrote.
A spokesperson for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is representing the plaintiffs, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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