President Donald Trump asked a federal judge to throw out lawsuits filed by two former supporters who blame him for "inspiring" their violence against protesters at one of his pre-election campaign rallies.
The men unfairly "seek to pass the blame" and liability to the president, Trump’s lawyers said in a filing Friday in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky. "One cannot be vicariously liable for merely inspiring others."
Alvin Bamberger and Matthew Heimbach blame Trump for their behavior at a March 1, 2016, rally in Louisville, saying he encouraged the violence by telling the crowd to " get ’em out of here," referring to protesters. At earlier rallies Trump had promised to pay his supporters’ legal fees if they got in trouble. The victims of the abuse sued the two men and Trump.
Trump’s request to dismiss the victims’ lawsuit was denied in April.
A video of Bamberger repeatedly shoving college student Kashiya Nwanguma went viral during the campaign. The other two plaintiffs are Molly Shah, an activist, and Henry Brousseau, who at the time was a 17-year-old high school student.
Bamberger’s lawyer, Stephen Pence, declined to comment when reached by phone. Heimbach, who is representing himself, said Friday in an interview that Trump’s words set up the violence and that attendees had no choice but to remove the protesters because they were being physically and verbally abusive. Trump’s supporters had to make up for the lack of security at the event, Heimbach said.
"There was a reasonable belief in the crowd that, given the lack of security, he’d pay for anyone caught up in legal trouble as a result of his request," Heimbach said. "It seems right now Mr. Trump is trying to avoid the fact that he essentially deputized the crowd to act as security."
Supporter no more
Heimbach said he no longer supports the president.
"Donald Trump was elected on three main planks: border security, keeping us out of wars, and helping the white, working class economically and socially,” Heimbach said. “But in 100 days, he’s bombed Syria, the border wall isn’t in the budget, deportations of so-called Dreamers aren’t moving forward and his health-care law is going to gut protections for white, working-class families."
Nwanguma was shoved by Heimbach and struck by Bamberger, while Shaw was shoved by Heimbach and other audience members, according to a judge’s ruling last month. Brousseau was punched in the stomach by an unknown person "believed to be a member of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group Heimbach was representing at the rally," according to the ruling.
Greg Belzley, lawyer for the three victims, said in an April interview, that violence was inevitable after Trump made his remarks, but he holds the supporters liable as well.
"When you tell people get ’em out of here I’ll pay your legal fees, is it really rocket science what he wants you to do?" Belzley asked.
The case is Nwanguma v. Trump, 16-cv-00247, U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky (Louisville).