Former President Donald Trump does not have “absolute immunity” for actions surrounding the 2020 election that some groups have claimed disenfranchised voters, according to a ruling from a federal judge on Monday.
The ruling from Judge Emmet Sullivan of the D.C. District Court opens the former president up to a lawsuit from the NAACP and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, which argue Trump’s actions during the 2020 election cycle unfairly discriminated against some voters. Sullivan’s decision also shuts down arguments from Trump’s lawyers who sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing he can’t be held liable in civil lawsuits because of certain immunities he held as president.
“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.”
Sullivan’s decision does not rule Trump as guilty in the case. Instead, it merely allows the groups to rewrite their lawsuit against the former president to be heard at a later date.
The NAACP and Michigan Welfare Fund sued Trump in late 2020 for his efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election, specifically for “disenfranchising black voters in Michigan” by pressuring state officials not to certify election results. The lawsuit accuses Trump and his campaign of violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965, later expanding to include alleged disenfranchisement in numerous states.
Specifically, the lawsuit argues the former president’s campaign intentionally spread misinformation and “baseless claims” about the 2020 election, encouraged supporters to slow or halt vote-counting efforts, pressured state officials not to certify election results, and challenged the validity of legally cast ballots.
Although Sullivan has not determined whether Trump is guilty in the case, the federal judge had harsh words for the former president in his decision.
“President Trump continues to spread false claims about the 2020 elections and continues to attempt to pressure officials into nullifying the election results: Plaintiffs extensively allege the efforts of former President Trump and his allies as recently as March 2022 to get state officials to overturn the election results; to endorse and provide financial support to candidates for office who supported his false claims of election fraud; all while fundraising for the 2024 Presidential Election,” the judge wrote. “These allegations are perhaps the opposite of what the Trump defendants term ‘vague suggestions of fear or intimidation.’”