Washington | Donald Trump’s acquittal at his second impeachment trial may not be the final word on whether he’s to blame for the deadly Capitol riot. The next step for the former president could be the courts.
Now a private citizen, Trump is stripped of his protection from legal liability that the presidency gave him. That change in status is something that even Republicans who voted on Saturday to acquit of inciting the January 6 attack are stressing as they urge Americans to move on from impeachment.
“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said after that vote.
Court cases that try to prove incitement often bump up against the First Amendment. In recent years, federal judges have taken a hard line against the anti-riot law. The federal appeals court in Virginia narrowed the Anti-Riot Act, with a maximum prison term of five years, because it swept up constitutionally protected speech. The court found invalid parts of the law that encompassed speech tending to “encourage” or “promote” a riot, as well as speech “urging” others to riot or involving mere advocacy of violence.