Is Donald Trump really in trouble with this Capitol riot lawsuit?

In case you hadn’t heard, Donald Trump has been sued by two Capitol Hill Police officers who are looking to blame the former president for the deaths, injuries and damage resulting from the January 6 Capitol Hill riot. Normally this wouldn’t be a terribly unusual headline. Somebody is always trying to sue Donald Trump over something, following the second rule they teach you in law school. (Never sue poor people.) But does this lawsuit actually have any merit or a chance for victory? MSNBC managed to find someone who thinks so and he’s a former White House lawyer himself. Neal Katyal talked to Nicole Wallace on the liberal news outlet and exclaimed “My God!” when he was asked if Trump might really be in hot water this time. (Raw Story)

Former acting White House Solicitor General Neal Katyal explained to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace that the lawsuit in Washington, D.C. court saying former President Donald Trump is to blame for the deaths of officers attacked at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. is serious.

While Trump escaped being held accountable by the U.S. Senate, things are getting worse for him. In the lawsuit, details walk through how the president’s supporters attacked, beat, and sprayed police officers. One officer died as a direct result of the attack on that day, and two other officers killed themselves in the days following the attack.

Trump attempted to rewrite what happened during a Fox News call-in over the weekend. In the call, Trump claimed that his supporters were hugging and kissing police officers. It contrasts with what was witnessed in every video taken at the scene by the attackers and security cameras.

Before we break this down, here’s the interview segment in case you want to watch and decide for yourself.

I’ll start by noting that just because you find one “expert” to give an opinion about a pending lawsuit, that doesn’t translate into the case being all but settled. Keep in mind that this is MSNBC we’re talking about here. Their audience wants to be fed the “best” analysis from the liberal perspective, in this case meaning the one that looks the worst for the Bad Orange Man. And Nicole Wallace wasn’t about to tamp down the expectations. She used to be a fairly reliable conservative – if moderate – voice in American politics. But whatever it is that they put in the water over at MSNBC has long since gotten to her.

The interview opened up by focusing on the admittedly bizarre description of the riot that Trump delivered on Fox News over the weekend. He described the rioters as “hugging and kissing” the police and declared that was all that happened. While it’s true that there was plenty of hugging and warm feelings when the rioters first arrived, that went downhill rapidly once the damage began and Trump clearly must know that. I have no idea why he said it.

But none of that should have any impact on the actual claims being made by the plaintiffs. They’re going to attempt to prove that Donald Trump was “responsible” for the riots and ensuing damage. They seem to be basing their claims on the fact that he never publicly called on the rioters to stand down and that he used words like “fight” during his speech. Neither of these claims should be compelling in a courtroom.

First of all, the people who are responsible for the riot are the ones who crossed the barricades and began breaking down windows and doors. The ones who stayed out on the street protesting are not responsible. Nor was the man who gave a speech prior to the beginning of the attack. While I personally feel that Donald Trump could have at least made the effort to send out a tweet and ask the people breaking into the building to stand down, he wasn’t under any legal obligation to do so. It’s also unclear if it would have done any good once the majority of them were inside the building.

Relying on that speech isn’t a very good plan either because we still have both video recordings and a transcript of the speech to draw on.

For example, let’s take the claim that Trump told his army of followers about the need to “fight.” He used the word “fight” 23 times during the speech (yes, I used a text searching tool to count and check them all), but not in the way the plaintiffs claim. He talked about Rudy Giuliani being a guy “who fights.” He mentioned Jim Jordan and some of the House Republicans fighting. He referenced the GOP being like “a boxer who fights with his hands tied behind his back.” He used the word “fight” six times in five sentences when he talked about his history of fighting against the “corrupt fake news.” He spoke of his fight against big Democratic donors. Some have tried to make hay out of the line, “And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” But that was in precisely the same context. He was fighting against the swamp.

Then there was the one other fighting reference that MSNBC seemed to focus on when Trump said “you have to get your people to fight.” Here’s what he actually said. “And you have to get your people to fight. And if they don’t fight, we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight. You primary them. We’re going to. We’re going to let you know who they are. I can already tell you, frankly.”

Trump was obviously talking about elected Republican officials who he felt were not working sufficiently hard to try to overturn the results of the election. To believe that he was giving instructions to the crowd, you would need to think that you could somehow challenge the speech attendees in a primary. It’s nonsensical.

Then there’s the one comment that Trump made during the speech that really drives the nail in the coffin of this argument. A little later on in the speech, Trump said this. “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

“Peacefully and patriotically.” These are not the words that a general shouts to his troops before they charge into battle. I may not agree with what Donald Trump was trying to accomplish on that day or the strategy he chose to attempt it, but trying to fleece him for millions of dollars by claiming he was directly responsible for the damage caused by the rioters should be a non-starter.