WASHINGTON – The House Homeland Security chairman accused Donald Trump in a federal lawsuit Tuesday of inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and conspiring with his lawyer and extremist groups to try to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election he lost to Joe Biden.
The lawsuit from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson is part of an expected wave of litigation over the Jan. 6 riot and is believed to be the first filed by a member of Congress. It seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. It also names as defendants Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, and the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, extremist organizations that have had members charged by the Justice Department with taking part in the siege.
“All I wanted to do was do my job, and the insurrection that occurred prevented me from doing that,” Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters Tuesday as he recounted his harrowing experiences as Trump loyalists broke into the Capitol and disrupted the constitutionally mandated process of certifying the election.
A Trump senior adviser, Jason Miller, said in a statement 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 called the Ku Klux Klan Act, comes three days after Trump was acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial that centered on allegations that he incited the riot, in which five people died. That acquittal is likely to open the door to fresh legal scrutiny over Trump's actions before and during the siege. Additional suits could be brought by other members of Congress or by law enforcement officers injured while responding to the riot.
Even some Republicans who voted to acquit Trump on Saturday acknowledged that the more proper venue to deal with Trump was in the courts, especially now that he has left the White House and lost certain legal protections that shielded him as president.
The suit traces the drawn-out effort by Trump and Giuliani to cast doubt on the election results even though courts across the country and state election officials repeatedly rejected their baseless allegations of fraud. Despite evidence to the contrary, the suit says, the men portrayed the election as stolen while Trump “endorsed rather than discouraged" threats of violence from his angry supporters in the weeks leading up to the assault on the Capitol.
“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.”