Donald Trump’s blatant calls for violence at his campaign rallies have come back to bite him in the butt.
An elderly veteran and a white supremacist, who were both once-vocal supporters of the new president, put Trump in quite the bind this week after filing legal claims that supported those of anti-Trump protesters who accused the real estate tycoon of encouraging violence against them at his rallies.
The Daily Beast reported that 75-year-old Alvin Bamberger, a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, and Matt Heimbach, 26, a known supporter of the white nationalist movement, alleged in separate court filings Monday, April 17, that the then-presidential candidate inspired them to remove unwelcome demonstrators from a March 2016 rally in Louisville, Ky.
Bamberger and Heimbach were both named as defendants in a suit filed last year accusing the men of assaulting a Black college student, Kashiya Nwanguma, and two other protesters. Trump and his campaign also were listed as defendants. The complaint argued that Trump’s calls of “Get ’em outta here!” at the Kentucky rally and others were a pattern of support for violent ejections and ultimately amounted to inciting violence.
Bamberger and Heimbach seemingly agreed. Both acknowledged their roles in Nwanguma’s forceful eviction that day but said they wouldn’t have done so if Trump hadn’t encouraged it.
In his claim, Bamberger said he “had no prior intention to act as he did” and “would not have acted as he did without Trump and/or the Trump campaign’s specific urging and inspiration.” Heimbach made a similar claim, saying he “relied on Trump’s authority to order disruptive persons removed.”
The forceful removal of Nwanguma and several others was caught on video and spread like wildfire on social media. In the footage, Heimbach is seen shoving the young woman and repeatedly yelling “Get out!” Trump is also heard in the background shouting the same demand from his spot onstage.
— Christina Mora (@ChristinaWLKY) March 2, 2016
Moving forward with the case, attorney Greg Belzley, who’s representing Nwanguma and the other plaintiffs, said he now hopes to question President Trump on the stand.
“We will push aggressively with discovery,” Belzley told The Daily Beast. “[Deposing Trump] is key. He is the person whose conduct is clearly an issue. It’s going to be important for him to explain his state of mind when he was saying what he was saying. He’ll need to explain what he knew before he got to Louisville, what his words were inciting, whether he understood what his actions were causing, whether anyone suggested he tone down his rhetoric and whether he rejected that advice.
“It should be interesting because in a sworn testimony, he will be sworn to tell the truth,” the attorney added. “We won’t have to guess what to take literally or figuratively.”
Belzley will likely rely on the well-documented violence carried out at Trump’s raucous rallies, which ultimately led up to the incident in Louisville.
According to the Daily Beast, there was police-reported violence at at least 12 of Trump’s rallies between January and March 2016, including assault, trespassing and disturbing the peace. Over 50 of those incidents resulted in arrests and/or police reports filed by victims who claimed they were pushed, punched or called racial slurs.
Lawyers for President Trump have since argued that executive privilege should protect him from such lawsuits.
“Mr. Trump is immune from suit because he is President of the United States,” a Friday filing from Trump’s lawyers read.
Belzley rebuffed the lawyers’ arguments, pointing out that Trumps’ calls for violence were something he did while he was still a private citizen.
“The idea that, because he won, he is absolved from all sin is a very dangerous precedent and I don’t think even his supporters would be comfortable with that,” Belzley said.