They also sued President Trump, claiming his notorious tough talk incited the violence.
Now, two of the three protesters listed as co-defendants have filed counterclaims that essentially agree with Nwanguma’s original lawsuit — their actions that day at the rally, the men allege, were in direct response to Trump’s words.
The first response was filed Friday by Alvin Bamberger, a 75-year-old member of the Korean War Veterans Association from Ohio, whose attorney wrote that the man “would not have acted as he did” without Trump and his campaign’s “specific urging and inspiration.”
Then Monday, another defendant, Matthew Heimbach, filed his own countersuit, claiming he “acted pursuant to the directives and requests of” Trump and his campaign. Heimbach is a high-profile leader in the white nationalist movement who advocates for a “new homeland for whites,” as The Post has previously reported.
How seriously such assertions will be taken by the judge in the case is an open question. They amount to suggesting they were just following orders, as if they couldn’t help themselves. If found liable, Bamberger and Heimbach both claim Trump and his campaign should pay their damages.
Trump, however, believes he is “immune” from the allegations altogether because, among other reasons, “he is President of the United States,” his lawyers wrote Friday in their own rebuttal to the lawsuit, a claim that would run contrary to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Clinton v Jones that President Bill Clinton could be sued by Paula Jones for acts committed before becoming president.
Trump’s lawyers previously filed a motion to dismiss the protesters’ lawsuit, but U. S. District Judge David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky rejected it earlier this month. He ruled that the case could move forward because Trump and his campaign should have known his words could incite violence, particularly among supporters in the crowd whose clothing identified them with white nationalist organizations.
“It is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ’em out of here’ advocated the use of force,” he wrote. “It was an order, an instruction, a command.”
Trump’s lawyers have argued his “get out” commands were not directed at the rally crowd.
Bamberger also sought to dismiss the lawsuit, The Post previously reported, but changed course after the judge’s ruling. Just weeks after the incident last March, he wrote an apologetic letter to a radio station. He said the rally was orderly until “Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them out.’”
Heimbach, who grew up in an affluent Maryland community and now lives in rural Indiana, is representing himself in court. He went online the day after the Trump rally and acknowledged he was the one pushing the woman in the video, according to a profile of him in The Post.
Heimbach is a 2013 graduate of Towson University. As a student there, he founded a campus chapter of Youth for Western Civilization and later started a White Student Union at the university, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also co-founded with his father the Traditionalist Youth Network, described by the Anti-Defamation League as “a small group that promotes white supremacy and a racist interpretation of Christianity.”
The judge has not yet set a trial date, but Greg Belzley, who represents the three plaintiffs, told The Post’s Avi Selk last week that they will begin to request campaign documents as evidence the president knew his words would incite violence.
They plan to put Trump under oath, Belzley said.
“The key is going to be his deposition,” Belzley said, “which we intend to pursue.”