Trump’s Jan. 6 Civil Cases Move Forward as Criminal Case Stalls

Trump’s Jan. 6 Civil Cases Move Forward as Criminal Case Stalls
Former US President Donald Trump sits in New York State Supreme Court during the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization, in New York City on Jan. 11, 2024. (Peter Fole/AFP via Getty Images)
Catherine Yang

In addition to the stalled criminal case against former President Donald Trump for his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, several additional civil cases related to that day have been filed against the former president. During a status update conference on Feb. 23, a plaintiff’s attorney pointed out that the case has been stuck in discovery for nine months, and U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said they needed to “kick things off,” rather than just “spinning out wheels until these other proceedings get off the ground, whenever they may be.”

Capitol Police officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, and Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) had sued President Trump in his personal capacity for the Capitol breach event on Jan. 6, and the cases have since been combined. President Trump had raised a presidential immunity defense and appealed on the matter, but the case was sent back to the district court for additional arguments.

“The D.C. Circuit has ordered that, if Defendant Donald J. Trump wishes to have the ‘opportunity to dispute the plaintiffs’ allegations bearing on the immunity question or to introduce his own facts pertaining to the issue,’ he ’must be afforded an opportunity to resolve this immunity claim before merits discovery,'” Judge Mehta had ordered in scheduling the conference.

However, the parties were unable to provide the judge with the matters of immunity in dispute during the meeting.

Plaintiff’s attorneys requested interrogatories answered by President Trump, preferably under oath, which would inform their discovery requests.

They specified that they needed binding answers from President Trump, not just representations from his legal counsel, as they did not want to be in a position where attorneys said the president sent a tweet, and later say their client actually did not.

President Trump’s attorneys said this certainly would not be able to happen without coordination with his legal team in the criminal case, as they have no intention of presenting information that could be used against him by prosecutors in the other case.

That case, which previously had a March 4 trial date, has been stalled for months and is now awaiting review on the issue of presidential immunity by the Supreme Court. Next month, President Trump will go to trial in New York in a separate criminal case alleging mishandling of business documents.

While Judge Mehta noted he was sensitive to the busy schedule of criminal proceedings, he also intended to move the case forward. Defense attorneys argued it was customary to stay civil proceedings with an ongoing criminal case on the same matter, and the judge said he would address the matter by response to a motion filed.

Several times, the judge asked the parties what facts, if any, were really in dispute. Much of what the case deals with is in the public record, such as President Trump’s speech on Jan. 6, or the number of people in attendance at that rally.

Plaintiff’s attorneys noted they might want to request discovery regarding the writing of President Trump’s speech that day, and the defense noted they may want congressional records.

Acknowledging that the defense was unwilling to put any answers in writing for the time being, the judge eventually ordered the parties to “put your heads together and have a meaningful conversation” by March 8 about the facts they will use in the case, and whether they plan to dispute any facts. He scheduled another status conference for March 12.