A Democratic congressman accused Donald Trump in a federal lawsuit on Tuesday of inciting the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol and of conspiring with his lawyer and extremists to try to prevent the Senate from certifying the results of the presidential election.
The lawsuit from Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
The case also names as defendants the former president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and groups including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, fringe groups that had members charged by the Justice Department with taking part in the Capitol incursion.
A Trump adviser, Jason Miller, said in a statement on Tuesday that Trump did not organize the rally that preceded the riot and “did not incite or conspire to incite any violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6th.” A lawyer for Giuliani did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The suit, filed in federal court in Washington under a Reconstruction-era law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, comes three days after Trump was cleared in a Senate impeachment trial of charges that he incited the riot.
The suit alleges that Trump “endorsed rather than discouraged” threats of violence from his supporters in the weeks leading up to the Capitol incursion.
“The carefully orchestrated series of events that unfolded at the Save America rally and the storming of the Capitol was no accident or coincidence,” the suit says.
“It was the intended and foreseeable culmination of a carefully coordinated campaign to interfere with the legal process required to confirm the tally of votes cast in the Electoral College.”
Presidents have historically been afforded broad immunity from lawsuits over actions they take in their role as commander in chief.
But the lawsuit filed Tuesday was brought against Trump in his personal capacity and argues that none of the behavior at hand had to do with his responsibilities as president.
“Inciting a riot, or attempting to interfere with the congressional efforts to ratify the results of the election that are commended by the Constitution, could not conceivably be within the scope of ordinary responsibilities of the president,” Joseph Sellers, a Washington lawyer who along with the NAACP filed the lawsuit on Thompson’s behalf, said in an interview.
“In this respect, because of his conduct, he is just like any other private citizen,” Sellers said.
Though the impeachment case focused squarely on accusations of incitement, the lawsuit accuses Trump of conspiring to disrupt the constitutional activities of Congress — namely, the certification of election results — through a protracted effort to discredit and overturn the election.
The case against Trump was brought under a provision of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was passed in response to KKK violence and prohibits violence or intimidation meant to prevent Congress or other federal officials from carrying out their constitutional duties.
“Fortunately, this hasn’t been used very much,” Sellers said. “But what we see here is so unprecedented that it’s really reminiscent of what gave rise to the enactment of this legislation right after the Civil War.”
The suit cites comments made by Trump and Giuliani in the weeks leading up to the riot and immediately preceding it that lawyers say were intended to mobilize supporters to try to overturn the election results and to prevent certification.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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