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Will Trump ever be held accountable? The Justice Department just increased the odds.

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11.08.2021

Laurence H. Tribe is Carl M. Loeb University Professor emeritus and a professor of constitutional law emeritus at Harvard Law School.

Donald Trump managed to evade legal accountability throughout his presidency. That might be about to change — and the newest sign comes in a brief filed by the Justice Department. It doesn’t directly address the former president, yet has ominous implications for his ability to avoid responsibility for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The Justice filing came in a lawsuit in which Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and a number of Capitol Police officers have sued Trump and others for their roles in the insurrection. One of those named in the suit, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), claimed that he is immune from personal liability under a law known as the Westfall Act, which shields federal officials acting within the scope of their employment.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta asked for the Justice Department’s position, and, in a filing Tuesday, the department resoundingly rejected Brooks’s view. This is a correct — indeed, an unavoidable — interpretation of the law. It is a view that is directly relevant to Trump’s potential liability in the Swalwell lawsuit and other pending litigation, and a welcome departure from the position endorsed by the Justice Department in the defamation lawsuit filed against Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll.

In the Carroll case, the........

© Washington Post


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