Lawsuit Threatens to Expose Trump Campaign’s White Supremacist Links
The litigation, which has received scant media coverage, contends Trump is complicit in violence perpetrated by hate groups
Barring any last-minute surprises, Donald Trump will emerge from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week as the Grand Old Party’s sanctioned presidential candidate. His victory also will be a triumph for white supremacist groups nationwide, if allegations in a federal lawsuit pending in Kentucky are on the mark.
The litigation was filed in state court in Kentucky in late March of this year and a month later transferred to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The national media reported on the initial complaint filed in the lawsuit, but the litigation has since dropped off the media’s radar.
Recent pleadings filed in the case, however, are newsworthy in that they allege Trump and his presidential campaign have more than a coincidental relationship with the various white supremacist groups that have frequented his campaign rallies.
If the litigation, now pending in the courts for some five months, survives Trump’s continuing efforts to get it dismissed, it would go to the discovery phase. At that point, the attorneys representing the victims in the case would have subpoena power to dig into the Trump campaign and expose any communications or direct relationships that might exist between Trump or his campaign staff and white supremacist groups around the country.
That makes the stakes quite high for the Trump campaign, as the lawsuit would be probing these issues over the next several months —at the height of the Trump campaign’s bid for the presidency. Stories have already surfaced in the media alleging Trump is a fan of Adolf Hitler's speeches and, at one point, kept a book of the former Nazi dictator's collected speeches, titled "My New Order," near his bed.
The plaintiffs in the court case are three individuals who attended a Trump campaign rally on March 1 in Louisville, Kentucky, that was held at a public venue — the Kentucky International Convention Center. The plaintiffs, one of whom is African American, concede they were at the rally as protestors. The plaintiffs allege they were assaulted by members of the audience — in particular by members of a white supremacist group called the Traditionalist Worker Party — after presidential candidate Trump incited the audience to expel protestors.
“Instead of allowing his own security, the Secret Service, or [the building’s] security to remove protestors, Trump stopped his half-hour speech five different times to point out protestors and, in most cases, to tell his crowd of supporters to ‘get ‘em out of here,’” the plaintiffs’ state in their initial complaint. “… On or around the time injuries occurred to the plaintiffs … Trump also stated: ‘Don’t hurt ‘em. If I say ‘go get ‘em,’ I get in trouble with the press, the most dishonest human beings in the world.’”
The plaintiffs’ pleadings continue: “Trump went on to state: ‘In the old days, which isn’t so long ago, when we were less politically correct, that kinda stuff wouldn’t have happened. Today we have to be so nice, so nice. We always have to be so nice.’ Then Trump went into a discussion about waterboarding, and how it is ‘absolutely fine.’”
The three protestors bringing the lawsuit were subsequently forcibly ejected by members of Trump’s audience, with several individuals from the Traditionalist Worker Party allegedly playing a major role in shoving and pushing them out of the building and punching one of the plaintiffs in the stomach at one point. A good portion of the assault on plaintiff Kashiya Nwanguma, a 21-year-old African American female and a student at the University of Louisville, was captured on video. [Links to video clips here.]
Trump claims that his speech is protected by the First Amendment and also denies that his words at the Louisville campaign rally in any way incited the crowd to violence, and he also insists that he was directing his orders to remove protestors to security personnel and not the general audience. The attorneys for the three plaintiffs dispute those assertions.
From plaintiffs’ court filings:
If Trump intended to speak to “security personnel,” he certainly made no effort to clarify his target audience before, during, or after the fact. Nor did he make it clear how anyone should “get ‘em out of here” except by physical force.
To the contrary … Trump has suggested umpteen times [in remarks made independent of the Louisville rally] that he would like to attack protesters himself and that he will pay the legal fees of audience members who attack protesters. He has further made repeated insinuations of how mob violence is a vestige of the “good old days,” and has explicitly instructed audience members to “knock the crap out of’" protestors. … Imminent physical violence was so likely to occur [at the Louisville rally] as a result of Trump’s direction that it actually did occur.
The plaintiffs also argue that Trump’s orders to remove protestors do not represent core protected speech under the First Amendment.
“The Supreme Court has never considered a situation in which a speaker directs a crowd to harm specific persons, in part because such speech is uniquely outside of anything that the First Amendment could ever protect,” the plaintiffs’ pleadings assert.
The First Amendment, and the court’s determination of the range of its protections, might well be pivotal in this case. If Trump’s words are deemed protected speech, the plaintiffs’ other arguments become moot.
The judge has not yet ruled on claims by any parties to the case. An order issued by the judge on June 30 gives the parties until July 28 to file additional reply briefs in the case. The plaintiffs are seeking damages for their “injuries, emotional distress, humiliation and mental anguish” as well as punitive damages and recovery of court costs.
If the plaintiffs do succeed in moving the case to the discovery phase, however, it appears clear that one angle of attack will be to probe deeply the connections between the Trump campaign and white supremacist groups — to determine if the violence endemic to Trump campaign rallies is part of an organized pattern.
The plaintiffs’ pleadings assert that “Trump’s foreknowledge of his rally’s attendees is not at all ‘undisputed.’ The connection between the Trump campaign and [white supremacist] groups like [the Traditionalist Worker Party] was well-documented even before the Louisville rally on March 1.”
The pleadings then reference multiple news stories about the support Trump's campaign has garnered from white nationalists and neo-Nazi organizations.
“Indeed, it is likely that white supremacists have been present and highly visible at virtually every Trump campaign event, as they were at the Louisville rally,” the plaintiffs allege. “Under these circumstances, it is highly likely that Trump knew (and knows) his audience.”
In a footnote in the pleadings, the plaintiffs point out that it is highly suspect that Trump “did not notice [or] did not anticipate that [white supremacists] were likely to attack one of the only Black people in attendance at the slightest provocation.”
“These are issues for discovery,” the footnote states further. “For what it’s worth, plaintiffs doubt [that Trump was unaware of the presence of white supremacist at his campaign rallies].”
The footnote also references a Los Angeles Times story in which a former Trump associate states the following: “What Trump’s opponents and critics have failed to understand is that everything he does is strategic.”
The pleadings for the victims of the alleged campaign-rally assault, as evidence of the pattern of violence at Trump campaign events, list multiple incidents of verbal and physical assaults — most involving racial animus — that have occurred at past Trump rallies, including the following:
September 3, 2015, in New York: Trump security guard punched a protester in the face after the demonstrator approached the guard to retrieve his sign;
Oct. 14, 2015, in Richmond, Virginia: Trump supporters shoved and took signs from a group of immigration activists, and spit in a protester’s face;
Oct. 23, 2015, in Miami, Florida: A man at a Trump rally knocked down and kicked a Latino protester.
Dec. 3, 2015, in New York City: A security guard took a sign from and struck an immigration activist during a protest after a Trump event;
Dec. 11, 2015, in New York City: Protesters affiliated with various Arab-American and Muslim-American groups were "forcibly ejected" from a fundraiser at which Trump was speaking; and
Dec. 14, 2015, in Las Vegas: Trump supporters yelled "Sieg Heil" and "light the motherfucker on fire" toward a black protester who was being physically removed by security staffers.
The court pleadings of the victims of the alleged assault at the Trump rally in Louisville contend their lawsuit would not have been filed if the violence at that event was an “isolated incident.”
“It was not,” their pleadings assert. “To say that violence was foreseeable by March 1, 2016, would be a gross understatement. It happened before the Louisville rally, it has happened repeatedly since, and it must stop.”
Major Pleadings in the Case to Date: