The Slatest

Judge: Lawsuit Against Trump Can Proceed, Inciting Violence Isn’t Protected Speech

Donald Trump speaks at the Kentucky International Convention Center on March 1, 2016, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

The president is once again in legal hot water because of something he said. A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by three protesters who were assaulted at a March 1, 2016, Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky. Henry Brousseau, Kashiya Nwanguma, and Molly Shah say then-candidate Trump riled up his supporters when he pointed at the protesters and repeatedly said “get them out.”

U. S. District Judge David J. Hale said the lawsuit against Trump, his campaign, and three of his supporters could proceed. Although Trump’s lawyers had argued that the lawsuit threatened constitutional protections because it would chill political speech, the judge said there was no protection for speech that may have incited violence. And, according to witnesses at least, the aggression toward the protesters began when Trump called on supporters to remove them. This was a particularly memorable case of aggression against Trump supporters because it was caught on video and went viral during the campaign.

“It is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ‘em out of here’ advocated the use of force,” the judge wrote. “It was an order, an instruction, a command.” And he’s not the only one who thinks so. One of the alleged aggressors clearly said that he “physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit” after “Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them out.’ ” The judge added it was “particularly reckless” of Trump to order the removal of a black woman considering known hate groups were in the crowd and violence had broken out at his rallies in the past.

The Friday ruling marked the latest example of the Trump administration trying to convince judges “that Trump’s words shouldn’t be taken at face value—that he didn’t mean what he actually, literally said,” writes the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake. Lots of voters seem to believe that argument, but the judicial system so far has shown no signs of budging. The president’s lawyers made a similar argument when they told a federal judge in Hawaii that words uttered by Trump and his team regarding the reasons for the travel ban shouldn’t be taken into account. That judge also didn’t buy it.