A Democratic member of Congress invoked Reconstruction-era anti-Ku Klux Klan laws in a lawsuit filed along with the NAACP against former President Donald Trump, his lawyer, and the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers right-wing extremist groups.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Trump, lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and the two groups "plotted, coordinated, and executed a common plan to prevent Congress from discharging its official duties in certifying the results of the presidential election."
Rep. Bennie Thompson alleges he suffered emotional distress as a result of the Capitol riot. The 14-term Mississippi congressman and chair of the House Homeland Security Committee is seeking a jury trial, and compensatory and punitive damages.
“January 6th was one of the most shameful days in our country’s history, and it was instigated by the president himself,” Thompson said in a statement Tuesday. “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. It is by the slimmest of luck that the outcome was not deadlier.”
“Failure to [hold Trump accountable] will only invite this type of authoritarianism for the anti-democratic forces on the far right that are so intent on destroying our country,” Thompson added.
The lawsuit was filed by the NAACP and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll. Other members of Congress, including Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, intend to sign on as plaintiffs “in the coming days and weeks,” according to Cohen Milstein. Coleman, a cancer survivor, tested positive for COVID-19 days after the riot, when she’d hidden in a crowded room at the Capitol along with maskless GOP colleagues.
The 32-page complaint alleges that Trump and Giuliani "engaged in a concerted campaign to misinform their supporters and the public” on the outcome of the election, and that Trump “acted beyond the outer perimeter of his official duties and therefore is susceptible to suit in his personal capacity.”
Giuliani is currently facing a different lawsuit seeking $2 billion in damages, filed by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, two voting technology vendors, for his baseless claims that those companies helped rig the 2020 election in President Joe Biden’s favor.
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives last month and acquitted by the Senate on Saturday, after 50 Democrats and seven Republicans voted guilty but failed to hit the two-thirds threshold required for conviction.
But Trump is already under investigation in Georgia for his alleged attempts to influence Republican elected officials to overturn the election in his favor in that state. He is also under investigation in New York for his business affairs.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump, argued Saturday that he could still be held liable for the riot and other matters in court.
“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he’s in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run,” McConnell said. “He didn’t get away with anything yet. We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation.”