Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Rep. Bennie Thompson is suing former President Trump and Rudy Giuliani over allegedly conspiring with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to carry out the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
According to ABC News, Thompson (D-MS) is claiming that Trump and Giuliani violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act that “prohibits any actions designed to prevent Congress from carrying out its duties.”
The suit posits that the riot was a pre-planned move by Trump and Giuliani in coordination with what Thompson terms as extremist groups to employ intimidation tactics to block the certification of the Electoral College.
“The Defendants each intended to prevent, and ultimately delayed, members of Congress from discharging their duty commanded by the United States Constitution to approve the results of the Electoral College in order to elect the next President and Vice President of the United States,” the lawsuit states. “Pursuing a purpose shared by Defendants Trump and Giuliani as well as Defendant Proud Boys, Defendant Oath Keepers played a leadership role of the riotous crowd and provided military-style assistance sufficient to overcome any Capitol Police resistance.”
“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 proclaims. “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.”
In a civil lawsuit, the bar for proving allegations such as these is much lower. The suit was filed Tuesday in D.C. on behalf of Thompson and the NAACP. Civil rights law firm Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll is handling the case. They are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. This lawsuit is suing Trump personally and asserts that he “acted outside the scope of his office when inciting the rioters.”
A Reconstruction-era law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act that is being referred to in the lawsuit was passed in response to violence and intimidation by the KKK who prevented members of Congress at the time from carrying out their sworn constitutional duties. According to attorney Joe Sellers, the act was allegedly intended to specifically protect against conspiracies.
“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,” Sellers said. “In this respect, because of his conduct, he is just like any other private citizen.”
The move by Thomspon is unsurprising as the Democrats have indicated that they would move into the public court system if Trump was not impeached. It is the first suit filed by a member of Congress against Trump in an expected wave of litigation.
The tactic being implemented against Trump has been used in other high-profile cases.
Thompson quoted Mitch McConnell in his move to litigate against Trump: “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.”
“Jan. 6 was one of the most shameful days in our country’s history, and it was instigated by the president himself,” Thompson stated. “His gleeful support of violent white supremacists led to a breach of the Capitol that put my life, and that of my colleagues, in grave danger”.