A Democratic Congressman has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of instigating the deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol and conspiring with his lawyer and extremist groups to try to prevent the Senate from confirming the results of the presidential election.
The lawsuit by Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is part of an expected wave of litigation over the January 6th insurrection and is the first to be filed by a member of Congress.
Unspecified penalties and claims for damages are asserted.
In the case, the republican former president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, extremist organizations whose members were accused by the Justice Department of participating in the siege, are also named as defendants.
A Trump adviser, Jason Miller, said in a statement that Mr. Trump did not organize the rally that preceded the uprising and “did not instigate or conspire to violence in the Capitol on Jan. 6”.
The lawsuit, filed in Washington federal court under a reconstruction-era law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, comes three days after Mr Trump was acquitted in an impeachment trial against the Senate that focused on allegations he instigated the uprising, in which five people were involved, died.
This acquittal is likely to open the door for a new legal review of Mr Trump’s actions before and during the siege.
Even some Republicans who voted in favor of Mr Trump’s acquittal on Saturday admitted that the more appropriate place to deal with Mr Trump was in the courts, especially now that he has left the White House and lost certain legal safeguards shielded him as president.
The lawsuit traces the protracted efforts of Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani to cast doubt on the election results, despite courts across the country and election officials repeatedly rejecting their baseless allegations of fraud.
Despite evidence to the contrary, the lawsuit says, the men portrayed the election as stolen, while Mr Trump was more advocating than discouraging threats of violence from his disgruntled supporters in the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack.
“The carefully coordinated series of events that played out at the Save America rally and the storming of the Capitol was not a coincidence or chance,” the suit reads.
“It was the intended and foreseeable culmination of a carefully coordinated campaign to intervene in the legal process required to confirm the vote in the electoral college.”
Presidents have historically received broad immunity from lawsuits for action taken in their role as commander in chief.
However, the lawsuit filed on Tuesday was brought against Mr Trump in his personal, unofficial capacity, alleging that none of the conduct in question had anything to do with his responsibilities as president.
“Inciting a riot or attempting to interfere with Congressional efforts to ratify the constitution-recommended election results may not be part of the normal responsibilities of the president,” said Joseph Sellers, a Washington attorney with the NAACP filed the lawsuit on behalf of Mr Thompson, said in an interview.
“In this regard, he is like any other private individual because of his behavior,” said Sellers.
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Though the impeachment process focused entirely on incitement, the lawsuit broadly accuses Mr Trump of conspiring to disrupt the constitutional activities of Congress – namely, confirming the election results that identified Joe Biden as a legitimate winner – Discrediting the result through months of efforts and relying on individual states and its own Vice President to overthrow the competition.
The case against Mr 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 to prevent Congress or other federal officials from performing their constitutional duties.
“Fortunately, this hasn’t been used very often,” said Sellers.
“But what we are seeing here is so unprecedented that it is really reminiscent of what led to the passage of this piece of legislation immediately after the civil war.”
The lawsuit cites incendiary remarks made by Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani in the weeks leading up to the uprising and on the day advocates said advocates should be mobilized to reverse the election results and prevent the Senate certification process.
That process was temporarily interrupted when Trump loyalists broke into the Capitol.
Mr Trump told supporters at a pre-riot rally to “fight like hell,” but the former president’s lawyers adamantly denied that he had instigated the riot during the impeachment process.
They pointed to a comment made during his speech in which he told the crowd to be “peaceful” that day.
Defense attorneys are likely to re-examine these allegations in the lawsuit.
You can also argue, as was done during the impeachment process, that Mr Trump’s speech was protected by the first amendment.