A House impeachment manager and intelligence subcommittee chairman filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against former US president Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Rudy Giuliani and Mo Brooks, a House Representative for Alabama, claiming they should be held liable for injuries and destruction caused by their incitement of the January 6 mob assault on the Capitol.
Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California who also sits on the judiciary and homeland security committees, alleged Mr Trump and his fellow speakers at a rally near the White House that day were directly responsible for mobilising a crowd of tens of thousands of pro-Trump supporters to march on the Capitol and priming them for violence.
Mr Trump’s actions before and during the assault – in which at least 800 people broke into the Capitol, attacked police and delayed Congress’s confirmation of the presidential election results – “made clear he poses a risk of inciting future political violence”, the complaint alleged.
“As a direct and foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the defendants’ express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the US Capitol,” the 65-page suit asserted. “Many participants in the attack have since revealed that they were acting on what they believed to be former president Trump’s orders in service of their country.”
The lawsuit claims the four speakers violated the Ku Klux Klan Act by conspiring to violently interfere in Congress’s constitutional duties and failing to act to stop the mob. It also accuses them of multiple counts of negligence under both federal and DC law, aiding and abetting, and infliction of emotional distress.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement: “Eric Swalwell is a low-life with no credibility.”
Mr Miller then repeated allegations in an Axios report from December that an alleged Chinese spy, Christine Fang, cosied up to Mr Swalwell from 2012 to 2015 before he was briefed by US intelligence officials about their concerns and cut off ties. Mr Miller said “after failing miserably with two impeachment hoaxes”, Mr Swalwell is engaging in a witch hunt on behalf of China.
“It’s a disgrace that a compromised member of Congress like Swalwell still sits on the House Intelligence Committee,” Mr Miller said.
The suit is the latest claim against Mr Trump and top allies to assert they had a role in the storming of the Capitol through their actions that day and during weeks of baseless allegations that November’s presidential election was stolen from him.
The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People last month sued Mr Trump, Mr Giuliani and two extremist groups whose members have been accused of leading the violence at the Capitol – the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers – on behalf of Mississippi representative Bennie Thompson. Mr Guiliani, Mr Trump’s campaign and others also face defamation claims related to their groundless post-election criticism of a former US election cyber security official and vote counting machine maker.
The lawsuit paints a fuller picture of Mr Trump’s actions before and after the event, drawing on the House impeachment manager’s case against the former president, suing under a wider theory of negligence. The suit does not focus on extremists who planned for violence but the “many more [who] were there for a political rally” before the defendants and others alleged “whipped them into a frenzy and turned them into a violent mob”.
“This is an important part of holding Trump – and the other defendants – responsible for what happened on January 6,” said attorney Matthew Keiser. Mr Trump was acquitted last month in his second impeachment trial as 57 senators – seven Republicans and all 50 Democrats – voted to convict him of inciting the mob. A two-thirds majority, 67 votes, was needed for a conviction. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for acquittal but said afterward that there was “no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible”.