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Trump Cleared in Rally Violence Lawsuit

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 13, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With legal troubles hanging overhead, President Trump got some good news in one case.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit that alleged he incited a riot when he had protesters forcibly removed from a campaign rally. In Nwanguma v. Trump, the appeals court said Trump's call to "get 'em out of here" was protected by the First Amendment.

Trump must be happy about the respite from litigation. The last thing he needed was another adverse judgment.

Direction of the Candidate

When Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations last month, it was a really bad court day for the Trump presidency. Cohen said he paid $280,000 to a porn star and a Playboy Playmate to cover up illicit affairs with Trump "at the direction of the candidate."

In March that same year, Trump was at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky. After three protesters attempted to disrupt his speech, he directed his supporters to remove them.

At some point, the protesters were "pushed, shoved and forcibly removed." One was punched in the stomach by a Trump supporter.

Writing for the Sixth Circuit, Judge David McKeague pointed out that Trump also told the crowd not to hurt the protesters. "The notion that Trump's direction to remove a handful of disruptive protesters from among hundreds or thousands in attendance could be deemed to implicitly incite a riot is simply not plausible -- especially where any implication of incitement to riotous violence is explicitly negated by the accompanying words, 'don't hurt 'em,'" the judge wrote.

Reversed, Remanded

When an appeals court reverses and remands, it often instructs the trial court about its error for further consideration. In this case, McKeague said there was no question about the words "get 'em out of here."

"The words were self-evidently said in order to quell the disturbances by removing the protesters," he wrote. "As to how the offensive words were said, we know, most relevantly, by plaintiffs' own allegations, that the words were accompanied by the admonition, 'don't hurt 'em.'"

Judge Helene White, in a concurring opinion, said the majority overemphasized the legal significance of the "don't hurt 'em" statement. However, she agreed that Trump did not incite anyone to riot.

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