Blame the president: White nationalist accused of attacking black woman sues Trump for "urging him on"

Trump has claimed immunity, arguing that he can't be sued for violence at rallies because he won the election

By Sophia Tesfaye
April 18, 2017 4:20AM (UTC)
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(AP/John Bazemore)

A white nationalist who is accused of attacking protesters at a campaign rally for Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against the president, arguing he “relied on Trump’s authority to order disruptive persons removed.”

As Politico reported, Matthew Heimbach claimed in a federal court filing on Monday that he “acted pursuant to the directives and requests of Donald J. Trump and Donald J. Trump for President” and that, if he’s found liable for damages, “any liability must be shifted to one or both of them.” Heimbach is a leader of the Traditionalist Youth Network, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a white nationalist group.


Heimbach's suit, along with another lawsuit filed on Friday by a man who allegedly assaulted protestors at a Trump rally in 2016, complicates the president’s argument that he is now immune to civil lawsuits.

A federal judge in Louisville recently ruled that Trump, a presidential candidate at the time, incited violence against three protesters when he shouted to the crowd at a campaign rally to “get ’em out of here.”

Heimbach, along with 75-year-old veteran Alvin Bamberger, were named in the lawsuit filed by Henry Brousseau, Kashiya Nwanguma and Molly Shah. Video footage appears to capture the men pushing and shoving Nwanguma in order to force her out of the arena — upon Trump’s request.


Heimbach, Bamberger and a third man, Joseph Pryor, were charged last summer with misdemeanor harassment by Louisville police.

"Now there’s some viral footage of several heated moments in Louisville. One features yours truly helping the crowd drive out one of the women who had been pushing, shoving, barking and screaming at the attendees for the better part of an hour," Heimbach later said in a post on the Traditionalist Youth Network website, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. In Heimbach’s Monday filing, he “denies physically assaulting” any protesters. But he also claimed that he "relied on Trump’s reputation and expertise in doing the things alleged."


In a lawsuit filed Friday against Trump, an attorney for Bamberger, the other man seen on tape harassing the 21-year-old student, also argued that throughout the 2016 election, Trump repeatedly urged supporters to expel protesters and "promised to pay the legal fees of those who — following Trump's urgings — removed the protesters."

Shortly after the incident, Bamberger wrote an apologetic letter to a radio station, recalling the rally as orderly until "Trump kept saying 'get them out, get them out,'" The Washington Post reported.


“Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them out’ and people in the crowd began pushing and shoving the protesters,” he wrote. “I was caught up in the frenzy. I physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit, an action I sincerely regret.”

Bramberg's lawyer argued: “To the extent that Bamberger acted, he did so in response to — and inspired by — Trump and/or Trump campaign’s urging to remove the protesters."

For his part, Trump’s lawyers argued on Friday that the president has blanket immunity against lawsuits.


“Mr. Trump is immune from suit because he is president of the United States,” the attorneys wrote, adding, “Mr. Trump is immune from proceedings pursuant to Clinton v. Jones."

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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