WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge suggested on Wednesday that then-President Donald Trump’s remarks to a crowd on Jan. 6, 2021, telling them to “fight like hell” before the Capitol attack could have signalled to his supporters that he wanted them to “do something more” than simply protest.
U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled in a court order in the case against Jan. 6 defendant Alexander Sheppard that Sheppard could not raise the “public authority” defence at trial after his lawyer argued Trump had authorised his client’s actions at the Capitol that day.
President George W. Bush appointed Bates to the court, and he rejected that argument, ruling that “President Trump neither stated nor implied that entering the restricted area of the Capitol grounds and the Capitol building or impeding the certification of the electoral vote was lawful,” and thus a public authority defence was not viable.
“These words only encourage those attending the rally to march to the Capitol, and they make no mention of legality. However, while his explicit words only mention walking down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, the context suggests that he was urging protestors to do more — perhaps to enter the Capitol building and stop the certification “Bates penned.
Bates noted in a footnote that his decision was consistent with the Jan. 6 committee’s final report, which concluded that Trump acted “corruptly” because he knew stopping the certification was illegal.
His decision was the first to cite the report of the House panel since it was made public last week.
Bates went on to say that phrases like “fight like hell” used by the committee could “signal to protesters that entering the Capitol and stopping the certification would be illegal.”
“Thus, the conclusions reached here — that even if protesters thought they were following orders, they were not misled about the legality of their actions and thus fall outside the scope of any public authority defence,” Bates wrote.