Trump defends remarks in suit blaming him for Capitol riot

Former US president Donald Trump argued that he had "simply called for peaceful and patriotic demonstrations" during his rally. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Former US President Donald Trump is seeking dismissal of a suit accusing him of sparking the Jan 6 Capitol riot, arguing that speakers at political rallies don't have a "legally enforceable duty of care" to adversaries or others "who might find themselves in the path of impassioned supporters."

Mr Trump, sued in August by eight Capitol Police officers who claim they were assaulted that day, argued in a court filing that the lawsuit should be tossed out because Mr Trump isn't "vicariously liable" for the actions of people who heard him speak at a "Stop the Steal" rally before the siege.

"Speakers at political rallies do not owe a duty of care to members of Congress or Capitol Police Officers not at the rally," Mr Trump's lawyer Jesse Binnall said in the Dec 24 filing in federal court in Washington.

Mr Trump, who continues to claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen by corrupt Democrats, argued in the filing that his remarks near the White House were in line with a president's right to "take advantage of the bully pulpit."

It's one of several suits Mr Trump faces for allegedly inciting the riot.

The complaint, which also names right-wing groups like the Proud Boys, alleges many of the defendants "planned, aided, and actively participated in that attack" and that "all defendants are responsible for it." The officers also claim the plot was steeped in "racism and white supremacy."

Mr Trump argued in the filing that he "acted responsibly" during the speech, and that he had "simply called for peaceful and patriotic demonstrations."

Mr Trump also denies that he was threatening violence when he said it was "a very dangerous moment in our history" and that people are "not going to stand having this election stolen from them."

"Under no stretch of the imagination can those statements be characterised as open threats of violence," he said in the filing.

Mr Zachary Rehl, who led the Proud Boys' Philadelphia chapter until his arrest in connection with the riot, said in a Dec 24 filing in the same case that the suit falsely accuses his group of racism, noting that the national organisation is led by a Black man, Mr Enrique Tarrio.

"An organisation could not long hold on to any racists or white supremacists while being led by a Black immigrant from Cuba and proudly proclaiming their open policy of inclusion of members of all races and even sexual orientation," Mr Rehl said in the filing.

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