CNN legal analyst Elie Honig recently weighed in Friday on a U.S. Appeals Court ruling that Donald Trump does not have immunity regarding civil lawsuits stemming from the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol via Mediaite.
“Now, Katelyn [Polantz] just laid out why this is so significant. There is this thing that we have here in America. No one is above the law. A lot of people think of that in the criminal sense. But this court, and correct me if I’m wrong, is saying this is also applicable in the civil sense with civil lawsuits and the president cannot get away with can be sued by anyone if it’s not a part of his capacity as president. Is that how you read this, Elie?” CNN anchor Sara Sidner asked.
“Right. Sara. So this is an enormously consequential decision,” Honig replied, adding:
“And let me explain why. 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, something to do with a federal prosecutor like I once was acting as a federal prosecutor.
But if it’s outside of the official job, then, yes, you can be sued. And what the Court of Appeals has said here is because what Donald Trump did in and around January 6th was outside the scope of the presidency. Yes, he can be sued. Now, here’s the bigger issue that Katelyn was referencing. 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.
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 relating to January 6th was outside the scope of his official job as president. So big ruling because Donald Trump can now be sued civilly. And it also, I think, gives us some insight into what could happen in this argument in the criminal context, too.”
“Is this also significant, not just for Donald Trump, but just also for the office, the office of the presidency?” followed up Kate Bolduan.
“Yeah. Yes, for sure, Kate, this does go beyond just Donald Trump. This goes to the office of the presidency itself,” Honig argued, adding:
This reaffirms that if a person is doing the job of a president, they cannot be sued. But if you’re outside that scope, yes, you can be sued. Core principle that relates to the powers of the presidency in general. And again, we are within the upcoming months going to get an answer to the next question. The bigger question about. Is there any form of criminal immunity for again, it could be the president, but it could be any federal official, could be the White House chief of staff. It could be a secretary of one of the cabinet positions. So we are going to get that answer in the course of Donald Trump’s criminal cases coming up soon. But again, the court ruling here is Donald Trump. Yes, he can be sued civilly because his actions around January 6th were outside the scope of his job as president.