President Trump and his campaign committee, Donald J. Trump for President Inc., were sued for incitement to riot and negligence in Jefferson County, Ky., Circuit Court, by three protesters who claimed Trump incited his supporters to attack them.
Trump, referring to the protesters, told his supporters or security staff to “get ‘em out of here,” allegedly causing white nationalist members of the audience to physically attack them.
Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah, and Henry Brousseau say they were pushed and shoved by Trump supporters at the March 1, 2016, Louisville rally. Brouseeau, then age 17, claims he was punched in the stomach.
When supporters took matters into their own hands, Trump allegedly said, “Don’t hurt ‘em. If I say ‘go get ‘em,’ I get in trouble with the press.”
The case was removed to federal court, where U.S. District Court Judge David J. Hale denied the president’s motion for dismissal in April.
Trump claimed the protesters could not prove their incitement claim because no riot actually occurred, but Judge Hale disagreed.
“Plaintiffs … describe a chaotic and violent scene in which a crowd of people turned on three individuals, and those individuals were injured as a result,” he wrote, saying a riot need not have occurred for the protesters to prove their incitement claim.
Trump also argued that the First Amendment protects his speech and bars the protesters’ claims, which led to Judge Hale’s decision to certify the president’s petition for an interlocutory appeal to the Sixth Circuit.
In an opinion filed Wednesday, Sixth Circuit Judge David McKeague wrote that the court will allow the president’s appeal because the case involves a “controlling question of law” where “there is substantial ground for difference in opinion.”
“While an interlocutory appeal from a denial of a motion to dismiss should not be granted cavalierly, we think this case is exceptional in many ways,” McKeague wrote. “As it stands, the President of the United States must answer for a state law claim that presents a novel question… While the president does not enjoy immunity under the circumstances presented here, an interlocutory appeal is hardly imprudent given the exceptional nature of this case.”
Trump had also filed a petition to the Sixth Circuit for a writ of mandamus to dismiss the case, but that petition was dismissed as moot based on the court’s decision to hear his appeal.