The adjudication of the events of January 6th, 2021 is far from over, now almost two years later, and it’s not just Donald Trump who has found himself in the hot seat.
The former President continues to face the threat of indictment by the Department of Justice, (although legal scholars appear to be split as to whether or not that will actually occur), but his actions on that day are receiving a judgement of sorts in federal court this week.
The Jan. 6 select committee’s finding that Donald Trump lured followers to storm the Capitol does not absolve them of legal responsibility for their actions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, the first opinion to cite the congressional panel’s criminal referrals of the former president.
U.S. District Court Judge John Bates cited the select committee’s report and criminal referrals to swat down a Jan. 6 defendant’s claim that he believed Trump had authorized him and other rioters to enter the Capitol when he urged the crowd to march down Pennsylvania Avenue.
So, what exactly was decided?
Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ruled that defendant Alexander Sheppard should be prohibited from making the “public authority” defense because there’s simply no evidence Trump told his followers that entering the restricted grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was legal. In fact, his incendiary rhetoric — especially telling his supporters to “fight like hell” — may suggest Trump was asking them to break the law, Bates said.
His words “could signal to protesters that entering the Capitol and stopping the certification would be unlawful,” Bates found.
“Thus, the conclusions reached here — that even if protesters believed they were following orders, they were not misled about the legality of their actions … is consistent with the Select Committee’s findings,” Bates wrote.
Several defendants have attempted to use the defense that they were being commanded to march to the Capitol by then-President Donald Trump, making their actions legal by default. This ruling has now set the precedent that this is not so.