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Justice Department Asks Judge to Dismiss Lafayette Square Lawsuit Against Trump

Government attorneys said neither Trump nor law enforcement should be held liable for ensuring the security of a sitting president.

The United States Department of Justice has asked a federal judge to dismiss lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and other officials for ordering the violent dispersal of demonstrators in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square.

According to The Washington Post, Justice Department attorneys argued that Trump—along with other top government officials—are immune from civil lawsuits concerning police actions intended to protect a sitting president and secure his movements.

The federal government also suggested that the lawsuits be dismissed because the results of last November’s presidential election—won by Joe Biden—make it unlikely that Trump will ever again get the chance to break the law as commander-in-chief.

The Post notes that the Trump administration was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington D.C., Black Lives Matter, and other civil liberties watchdogs. Collectively, they accused former President Trump and his administration of violently dispersing a crowd of Black Lives Matter demonstrators on June 1st.

Trump holding a Bible in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020. Image via Flickr/Trump White House Archived. Public domain.

Allegedly acting on Trump’s orders, an assortment of military, federal and local law enforcement personnel cleared Lafayette Square using batons, horses, pepper spray, and smoke.

Police purportedly began clearing Lafayette Square over a half-hour before the district’s city-wide curfew was set to begin.

The action attracted significant criticism from the left, with critics of Trump claiming that he had ordered an assault on demonstrators simply so he could appear in Lafayette Square holding a Bible.

In its complaint, the ACLU said that—in spite of legal precedent favoring the former president and his allies—the Justice Department’s defense would permit future administrations to “authorize brutality with impunity,” even on the figurative steps of the Capitol.

Furthermore, the ACLU suggested that the government’s defense would mean that law enforcement “could have used lived ammunition to clear the park, and nobody would have a claim against that as an assault on their constitutional rights.”

However, Justice Department attorneys nonetheless defended the lawfulness of the event, saying that presidential security is a “paramount” government interest.

As such, government lawyers wrote, police acted lawfully when they took measures to ensure Trump’s safety as he moved one block from the White House toward Lafayette Square.

The Washington Post reports that presiding U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich appeared receptive to the Justice Department’s line of reasoning—as well as its motion to dismiss the lawsuits.

“How do I get over the clear national security concern over the president’s safety?” Judge Friedrich asked the ACLU and its allies in a recent hearing. “It seems to me you have to clear the square before [Trump] walks to the church. Why is that not reasonable?”

Sources

DOJ Argues Protesters’ Lafayette Square Lawsuit Should Be Dropped as Trump’s Out of Office

Justice Dept. asks judge to toss lawsuit against Trump, Barr for violent clearing of Lafayette Square

 

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