Whoops! Jonathan Turley Says Eric Swalwell is Accidentally Vindicating President Trump

From Jonathan Turley.com

Enter Swalwell, who has long exhibited a willingness to rush in where wiser Democrats fear to tread, with what may be his costliest misstep yet.

First, his lawsuit will force a court to determine if the defendants’ speeches were protected political speech. As if to guarantee failure, Swalwell picked the very tort — emotional distress — that was previously rejected by the Supreme Court. In 2011, the court ruled 8-1 in favor of Westboro Baptist Church, an infamous group of zealots who engaged in homophobic protests at the funerals of slain American troops. In rejecting a suit against the church on constitutional grounds, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Roberts distinguished our country from hateful figures like the Westboro group, noting that “as a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

Second, Swalwell must show that Trump was the factual and legal cause of his claimed injuries. Swalwell and others have expressly argued that, if not for Trump, the riot would not have occurred. But a trial will allow the defense to offer “superseding intervening forces” on that question — acts of others that may have caused or contributed to the breaching of the Capitol. A court could rule that Trump was not the “but for” cause of the riot before even getting to any legal causation or constitutional questions.

Claims of blame would have been easier to make before the House refused to hold hearings on Trump’s impeachment, including weeks after its “snap impeachment.” Now, facts have emerged that implicate Congress itself in the failure to take adequate precautions against rioters, despite advance warnings. Former House officials claimed an FBI warning was sent only in an email, a day before the riot — but FBI Director Christopher Wray has testified that a warning of plans to storm the Capitol was sent on all of the channels created for sharing such intelligence. Moreover, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified that he asked for National Guard support but was refused six times; one key official, Sund said, did not like “the optics” of troops guarding Congress. Delays at both the Capitol and the Pentagon allegedly left the Capitol woefully understaffed. And Trump has been quoted by former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller as warning him the day before the riot that “You do what you need to do. You do what you need to do. You’re going to need 10,000 (troops).”

There also is a growing problem with the riot’s time line. Swalwell’s complaint alleges a failure by Trump to act as violence unfolded. But as more information has been released, the time period has shrunk to a difference of minutes between the breach and Trump’s call for law and order. Trump ended his speech at 1:10 p.m. The first rioter entered the Capitol at 2:12 p.m. Eight minutes later, Trump had a heated call with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who told him of the breach. Then at 2:26 p.m., Trump mistakenly called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) instead of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). Lee reportedly said Trump did not appear to realize the extent of the rioting. Finally, at 2:38 p.m., Trump called for his followers to be peaceful and to support police. That was roughly 30 minutes after the first protester entered the Capitol. Trump’s defense team will likely emphasize that the he not only told followers to go “peacefully” to the Capitol but made the call to obey law enforcement roughly 30 minutes after the first rioters entered the Capitol.

March 8, 2021 5:11 pm

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