Washington — A Democratic congressman and the NAACP filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday alleging former President Donald Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, along with far-right extremist groups, conspired to incite theon the U.S. Capitol to block Congress from reaffirming in the presidential election.
The lawsuit from Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi accuses Mr. Trump and Giuliani of violating a Reconstruction-era law, known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, that prohibits two or more people from conspiring to "prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat," any office-holder from performing their duties. The NAACP said two other Democrats, Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, plan to join the litigation.
The suit, filed in the federal district in the District of Columbia, names Mr. Trump in his personal capacity, as well as Giuliani, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, two extremist groups whose members participated in the insurrection. As Mr. Trump is out of office, he no longer enjoys some of the legal protections afforded to presidents.
While he was acquitted by the Senate on the charge of incitement of insurrection Saturday, some Republicans Mr. Trump could be held accountable for his actions through the criminal justice system.
"The defendants conspired to prevent, by force, intimidation and threats, the plaintiff, as a member of Congress, from discharging his officials duties to approve the count of votes cast by members of the Electoral College following the presidential election," the suit states.
Thompson and the NAACP allege the actions taken by Mr. Trump, Giuliani and the extremist groups were "part of an ongoing course of actions" they pursued "for the purpose of contesting the announced results of the presidential election held in November 2020 and preventing the duly elected president and vice president from attaining approval of Congress of their election necessary to their inauguration."
The Mississippi Democrat was among the lawmakers seated in the House gallery when the riots began and eventually evacuated by law enforcement out of the Capitol and, later, to a secure location. While the insurrection halted Congress's constitutionally mandated counting of states' electoral votes, lawmakers returned to the Capitol several hours later to finish the tally and reaffirm Mr. Biden's win.
In their complaint, Thompson and the NAACP lay out the campaign by Mr. Trump and Giuliani to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election, including tweets and remarks from the weeks before the assault falsely claiming the presidential election was stolen. They also cite comments from both men encouraging Mr. Trump's supporters to attend the rally at the Ellipse on January 6, the day Congress was convening to count the electoral votes, as well as the former president's address at the event, such as his warning that "if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."
"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 alleges. "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."
Thompson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial.
While House Democrats presenting the case against Mr. Trump in the Senate trial laid out in detail the events leading up to the January 6 assault and what took place at the Capitol that day, little is known about what the former president was doing during the riots.
Democrats asked Mr. Trump to testify during the trial, though his lawyers swiftly declined the invitation. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska pressed the former president's legal team about when the president learned of the breach and what actions he took to bring the assault to an end during a question-and-answer portion of the trial. But Michael van der Veen, one of Mr. Trump's lawyers, said he did not know and blamed his lack of knowledge on the House for rushing the impeachment process.