Justice Alito tangled with the lawyer for the anti-Trump challengers over testimony from the Denver-based disqualification trial last year about Trump’s relationship with far-right extremists
They were talking about Peter Simi, a sociology professor at Chapman University who studies extremism. He testified in November in Denver District Court about Trump’s history of embracing of far-right extremists how those militant groups interpreted his incendiary rhetoric on the morning of January 6, immediately proceeding the violent storming of the US Capitol.
Simi’s testimony ended up being influential to the Colorado Supreme Court’s eventual decision to bar Trump from the ballot. But Alito pressed lawyer Jason Murray on whether other states might draw different conclusions, if they were to vet Trump’s actions on January 6. He suggested that other states might not even consider Simi as an expert.
The questioning was yet another example of how the justices appear to be skeptical of the effort to bar Trump from the ballot.
Here’s CNN’s coverage from when Simi testified at the trial:
Trump was often “using language with a wink and a nod,” Simi said, but members of these extremist groups consistently interpreted his comments as a “clarion call” toward “anger, resentment and mobilization.” This ramped up in summer 2020 as Trump began claiming he was being cheated in the presidential election, Simi said.
Eric Olson, an attorney for the Colorado challengers, played clips from Trump’s January 6 speech, where he urged supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” so they could “save” the country (Though, at times, he also said they should do so peacefully.)
Right-wing extremists understood those words as “a call to violence,” Simi testified.
“Within far-right extremist culture, fighting is meant to be taken literally … especially within the context as it’s laid out, that these threats are imminent, and that you’re going to lose your country. Then, fighting would be understood as requiring violent action.”
The relationship between Trump and far-right extremists is “unprecedented,” Simi said.
“Far-right extremists really were galvanized by his candidacy starting in 2015,” Simi said. “And a relationship really emerged between Donald Trump and far-right extremists, with far-right extremists really seeing him as speaking their language, and really addressing many of their key grievances.