A federal judge on Monday rejected former President Donald Trump’s argument that he has “absolute immunity” in response to a lawsuit alleging he committed civil rights violations in his attempts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results.
The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and others, accuses the former president and the Republican National Committee of efforts to disenfranchise voters through targeted harassment, intimidation and efforts to prevent the complete counting and certification of ballots after the 2020 election.
The ruling notes that Trump’s lawyers previously argued that he is “absolutely immune” from damages for his actions within the “outer perimeter” of his official responsibilities as president.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington sided with the civil rights groups, writing that Trump’s conduct after the 2020 election was “purely political and therefore well beyond the contours of presidential immunity.”
“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 wrote. "For these reasons, the court concludes that former President Trump is not immune from monetary damages in this suit."
NBC News has reached out to attorneys for Trump and the Republican National Committee for comment.
Sullivan allowed the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint, and issued a strong condemnation of Trump for posing “a very substantial risk in the future to plaintiffs’ fundamental right to vote."
“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.
“The court is also cognizant that the individual plaintiffs are Black voters who are particularly targeted by former President Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud,” he continued.
The case was filed before the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, while the then-president was challenging election results in numerous states. It is among multiple civil lawsuits that have been waged against Trump in recent years, in which he argued that in some of the cases he was immune from the civil lawsuits as a sitting president.