A U.S. Congressman sued former President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, claiming they conspired to incite last month’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Working with the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, Trump and Giuliani "acted in concert to incite and then carry out" the Capitol insurrection, according to a complaint by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss.
"The insurrection was the result of a carefully orchestrated plan by Trump, Giuliani and extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, all of whom shared a common goal of employing intimidation, harassment and threats to stop the certification of the Electoral College," according to a press release announcing the lawsuit.
Thompson is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee
The lawsuit, filed in district court in Washington Tuesday, was brought by the NAACP on behalf of Thompson. Other members of Congress, including Democrat Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Hank Johnson of Georgia, plan to join the litigation in the coming weeks, according to a news release announcing the suit.
The NAACP is not a plaintiff.
The suit invokes the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, claiming that Trump and Giuliani made false claims that the election was stolen and fomented a raid that interfered in Congress’s constitutional duties.
"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's lawsuit says.
Jason Miller, an adviser to Trump, dismissed the allegations in the lawsuit, citing Trump's acquittal in the Senate.
"President Trump did not plan, produce or organize the Jan. 6th rally on the Ellipse," Miller said in a statement, referring to a speech the Republican former president made on Jan. 6 at a rally near the White House.
Giuliani could not be immediately reached for comment.
Critics have said that Trump and Giuliani helped incite the attack during the "Save America" rally, where both repeated false claims that the election had been stolen.
Giuliani told the crowd "let's have trial by combat... I'll be darned if they're going to take our free and fair vote."
Trump, who then took the stage, urged people to march to the Capitol. More than 200 people have been charged with federal offenses in the assault on Congress, which left five dead.
The FBI and federal prosecutors have been increasingly focusing on whether members of far-right extremist groups conspired to impede Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory.
More than 18 people associated with the Proud Boys have been charged so far for their alleged role during the riots.
Several of the alleged Proud Boy associates have been accused of conspiring to impede Congress or block police from protecting the Capitol.
Three alleged associates of the Oath Keepers have also been indicted on charges they conspired to storm the U.S. Capitol as far back as November. One of them - Thomas Caldwell - pleaded not guilty last week.
Reuters previously reported that the U.S. Justice Department is also considering whether to charge members of the groups under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, normally used against organized crime, though a decision on that has not been made.
The U.S. Senate on Saturday acquitted Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 riot, when 57 senators including seven Republicans voted to convict, short of the 67 votes needed.
The lawsuit offers a new avenue for Democrats to try to hold Trump accountable for his role in the Capitol riot after the acquittal.
The suit seeks unspecified damages.
This report contains material from Bloomberg News and Reuters.
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