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Trump sued by Congressman, NAACP over Capitol riot after impeachment acquittal

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol Police stand detain protesters outside of the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021, in Washington, DC. |

A member of Congress and the NAACP filed a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, accusing him of inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Democrat Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. He is represented by the NAACP and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. 

Democrat Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey intend to join the lawsuit as plaintiffs in the coming days. 

“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 lawsuit claims. 

“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.”

The legal filing also named Trump's lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and far-right groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers as defendants. 

The NAACP claims the Capitol insurrection was the result of a “carefully orchestrated plan.” The civil rights group argues that the defendants shared the goal of trying to stop the certification of the 2020 election.

According to a statement, Thompson and other Congress members were rushed into the Longworth House Office Building after Capitol police barricaded the House chamber doors with furniture. 

The Democrat accused Trump of engaging in a coup attempt. The lawsuit specifically claims that defendants violated the Klu Klux Klan Act, a Reconstruction-era law that protected African Americans from white supremacist violence. 

“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,” Thompson said. “It is by the slimmest of luck that the outcome was not deadlier.”

The lawsuit cited Trump’s comments leading up to the Jan. 6 riots in which he claimed that he won the election but was victimized by targeted voter fraud. It also cites Trump’s remarks at the Save America March rally near the White House on Jan. 6, before rioters storming the Capitol. 

In his speech, Trump encouraged supporters to “fight like hell” and told them to protest at the Capitol peacefully. The lawsuit contends that Giuliani called lawmakers on Jan. 6 to urge them to “slow down” the electoral vote count.

Thompson said that the legal action is a direct response to Trump's acquittal by the U.S. Senate. 

“While the majority of Republicans in the Senate abdicated their responsibility to hold the President accountable, we must hold him accountable for the insurrection that he so blatantly planned,” Thompson stated.

“Failure to do so will only invite this type of authoritarianism for the anti-democratic forces on the far right that are so intent on destroying our country.”

In January, while Trump was still president, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him, making him the first president to be impeached twice. 

The impeachment article accused Trump of having fomented the violent Capitol Hill protests on the day in which the electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election were to be counted. During the protests, hundreds of his supporters and others stormed the halls of Congress.

The Senate trial did not begin until after Trump left office, leading conservatives to argue that the proceedings were not appropriate given that he was no longer president.

Last Saturday, 43 Senators voted to acquit Trump of inciting the insurrection, failing to meet the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority for a conviction.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky argued that while he was voting to acquit Trump, he still found the former president culpable for the riot.

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President,” stated McConnell. “And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”

McConnell said that while former presidents aren’t eligible for impeachment convictions, they are “still liable to be tried and punished in the ordinary tribunals of justice.”

“We have a criminal justice system in this country,” McConnell said. “We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.” 

Trump blasted his impeachment trial, claiming that it is “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”

“No president has ever gone through anything like it, and it continues because our opponent cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago,” he stated.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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