Monday, August 2

Democratic congressman sues Trump over Capitol riots

(CNN) — Former US President Donald Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, are being charged with conspiring with far-right groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for inciting the January 6 insurrection. The civil suit was filed Tuesday in federal court by the Democratic Chairman of the House National Security Committee citing a post-Civil War law designed to combat violence and intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan.

The lawsuit, filed in a personal capacity by Mississippi Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, is the first civil action filed against former President Trump. It is related to the attack on the United States Capitol and comes days after the Senate acquitted Trump in the second impeachment against him.

If the lawsuit proceeds, it would mean that the former president and others would be subject to disclosure of evidence and statements, which could expose details and evidence that were not disclosed during the Senate impeachment trial.

New explicit video of the attack on the Capitol in the US 0:32

Thompson pointed to Trump’s words and tweets from months before the insurrection, to accuse the former president and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, of mobilizing and preparing his supporters for an attack and preventing Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 elections. , January 6th.

The lawsuit cites a little-used federal statute, which was passed after the Civil War. This was aimed at combating the violence of the Ku Klux Klan; It allows civil actions to be brought against people who use “force, intimidation or threat” to prevent someone from fulfilling the duties of their office.

“As part of this unified plan to avoid the Electoral College vote recount,” the lawsuit says, “the defendants Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, through their leadership, acted in concert to spearhead the assault on the Capitol, while the The angry mob that the defendants, Trump and Giuliani, incited was descending on Capitol Hill. The carefully orchestrated series of events that unfolded at the Save America And the assault on the Capitol was not an accident or a coincidence. It was the expected and predictable culmination of a carefully coordinated campaign to interfere with the legal process required to confirm the counting of votes cast in the Electoral College.

Former President Trump and many Republicans argued that the impeachment was unconstitutional because he was no longer in office. As such, Thompson points to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech on Saturday where the Kentucky Republican appeared to encourage litigation against Trump.

“We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation, ”McConnell said after voting to acquit Trump. “And former presidents are not immune from being accountable to either of them.”

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Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, said the former president did not incite or work to incite the unrest on Capitol Hill.

“The [ex]President Trump has been acquitted in the latest impeachment witch hunt by the Democrats, and the facts are irrefutable, “Miller said in a statement. “The [ex]President Trump did not plan, produce or organize the January 6 rally at the Ellipse. President Trump did not incite, or conspire, to incite violence on Capitol Hill, on January 6. “

Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has been informed about the lawsuit, a source told CNN.

“Trump’s words fueled unrest”

Thompson’s lawsuit links Trump’s repeated refusal to accept the election results in the weeks following Nov. 3 to threats of violence against elected officials such as Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, accusing Trump of backing the elections. threats rather than reporting them. The lawsuit also alleges that Trump’s refusal to directly convict the Proud Boys during the first presidential debate in September fueled his violent pre-January 6 plans.

The lawsuit links the hours-long standoff on Capitol Hill directly to Trump’s rally earlier that day where the then-president told his supporters, “… if you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country anymore.”

Trump also said, “They have to show strength and they have to be strong.”

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The lawsuit alleges that Giuliani also angered the crowd by continuing to speak out about unsubstantiated allegations of widespread electoral fraud and by telling supporters on January 6, “Let’s do a trial in combat.”

The lawsuit accuses Trump of delaying his address to the crowd at the Ellipse on January 6 as a way to give the Proud Boys time to get to the Capitol and overcome the police presence there, though there is no evidence provided that Trump’s speech was delayed or that any delay was intentional.

In addition to Trump and Giuliani, the lawsuit accuses the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

Several members of these far-right groups have been charged for their involvement in the riots. The Justice Department has indicted more than a dozen Proud Boys, so far, for the assault on the Capitol and recently brought conspiracy charges against a group of five people associated with the group. The Justice Department also indicted three members of the Oath Keepers in late January, including one member, Jessica Watkins, whose attorney told the judge last week that she believed she was following Trump’s instructions.

The lawsuit was randomly assigned to Judge Amit Mehta, appointed by former President Barack Obama. Mehta has handled several lawsuits related to Trump’s financial records. In 2019, it ruled that Trump’s financial firm, Mazars USA, had to turn over the records to Congress. He also previously denied a request by House Democrats, in the minority at the time, attempting to obtain Trump hotel records from the General Services Administration.

Statute against the KKK

The legal grounds for the lawsuit could face an uphill battle in court, as the KKK statute has not been widely used.

“It was specifically intended to provide federal civilian resources to federal agents who were prevented from performing their duties by two or more people, whether they were federal marshals in the South, after the Civil War, federal judges in unrebuilt lower courts, or legislators Federal Lawyers, ”explained Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor and Supreme Court analyst.

“It is not at all difficult to see how that provision relates to what happened on January 6, where, obviously, two or more people conspired to prevent the Joint Session of Congress from fulfilling its constitutional function of certifying the victory of President Biden in the Electoral College. The more difficult question is whether Trump himself could be connected to that conspiracy, “said Vladeck.

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Attorney Joseph Sellers, who represents Thompson, said the specific purpose of the statute was to provide a remedy against efforts to interfere with the duties of Congress.

«The fact that there are very few precedents [que involucren esta sección del estatuto] it’s a reflection of how extraordinary the events that led to this lawsuit were, ”said Sellers.

Other members of Congress, including Democratic Representatives Hank Johnson of Georgia and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, intend to join the lawsuit as plaintiffs, according to a statement that accompanied the lawsuit.

“While the majority of Republicans in the Senate abdicated their responsibility to convict the president, we must hold him accountable for the insurrection he so blatantly planned,” Thompson said in the statement. “Failure to do so will only invite this kind of authoritarianism to the undemocratic forces of the far right who are so determined to destroy our country.”

– CNN’s Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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