Trump told Facebook’s oversight board that his supporters were ‘law abiding’ during Capitol riot

Bizar Male

Former President Donald Trump told Facebook’s oversight board that his supporters were “law-abiding” during the Capitol riot, arguing that nothing he said on Jan. 6 could “reasonably be interpreted as a threat to public safety,” according to portions of his comments made public on Wednesday.

The remarks were submitted to Facebook’s oversight board on Trump’s behalf through the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian group, and “a page administrator,” according to the board’s full decision.

Unpacking Trump’s argument: The comments submitted for Trump claimed that it was “stunningly clear that in his speech there was no call to insurrection, no incitement to violence, and no threat to public safety in any manner” and described a “total absence of any serious linkage between the Trump speech and the Capitol building incursion.”

Federal investigators have identified substantial evidence that some of the rioters on Capitol Hill were directly inspired by the president’s call to action earlier in the day. At least three supporters of Trump were arrested as recently as Monday and charged with federal crimes related to the riot, according to court records. Prosecutors have said their investigation into the events of Jan. 6 includes more than 400 defendants, many of whom have said they were acting on behalf of Trump and inspired by his calls to action.

Trump’s statement further argues that the terms “fight” and “fighting” used during his rally speech that day “were linked to a call for lawful political and civic engagement,” concluding “those words were neither intended, nor would be believed by any reasonable observer or listener to be a call for violent insurrection or lawlessness.”

The oversight board’s take: Eli Sugarman, the board’s content director, said Trump’s statement “is replete with falsehoods.” Sugarman plays an administrative role for the board and does not vote on cases.

Ultimately, the board disagreed with the Trump camp’s legal framework. Dex Hunter-Torricke, a spokesperson for the board, said in an interview that Trump argued the ruling “should be interpreted through a U.S. legal prism,” and not one “focusing on an international human rights framework.” Legal experts have said that a narrower legal interpretation that didn’t factor in how Trump’s speech affects others, as is common under human rights law, could have bolstered his case.

The oversight board decided that Trump’s account will remain banned for now, but punted the longer-term decision back to Facebook. The board appeared to agree with Trump on at least one point: that Facebook’s decision to suspend Trump indefinitely was overly vague and requires clearer set of policy justifications.

Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.

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