Congressman trapped and terrorized in Capitol riots sues Trump
WASHINGTON (CN) — Accusing former President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of having incited rioters to breach the U.S. Capitol, Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell demanded money damages Friday in a federal complaint against the quartet.
Since only the U.S. attorney general can seek a criminal conviction of a former president, the suit joins an ongoing series of civil litigation related to the political insurrection of Jan. 6. Congressman Bennie Thompson, a fellow Democrat, fired the first shot on Feb. 16, invoking the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 in his suit against Trump, Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — two extremist groups said to have plotted January’s attempted coup.
Swalwell is one of the impeachment managers who unsuccessfully sought Trump’s conviction in the Senate. Represented today by the law firms Caleb Andonian; KaiserDillon; and Coburn & Greenbaum, the five-term Democrat brings nine counts of conspiracy and negligence against both the former president and Giuliani, as well as Trump’s eldest son and Brooks of Alabama.
“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 U.S. Capitol,” the complaint states. “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 65-page suit is peppered with the former president’s tweets as evidence of Trump’s effort to undermine the results of the 2020 election.
Most of them are plain-spoken: “The Democrats are trying to steal this Election,” Trump wrote in one. “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION” he said in another. “IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”
Swalwell also includes tweets deliberately telling Trump’s followers to “STOP THE COUNTY!” and “STOP THE FRAUD!”
“Congressman Swalwell is pursuing civil damages because Trump and the other defendants violated federal and state laws designed to protect people from precisely the conduct they engaged in,” attorney Philip Andonian said in an email.
Responding to the claims this afternoon, Giuliani denied any wrongdoing. “No I did nothing to incite any riot. This is the usual propaganda from a habitual liar and fraudster,” he said a text message, referring to Swalwell. “He feels he’s empowered to lie because the media loves him because he’s so anti-Trimp.”
Much of the suit focuses on actions carried out in certain states. In Michigan, for example, the former president tried to pressure two Republican members on the Wayne County elections board to rescind their votes certifying the election results.
In a more infamous case, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger an “enemy of the people” in a phone call after the Republican official stated his belief that Biden’s victory in the state was accurate.
But the lawsuit really trains its attention on the rally Trump held on January 6 hours before the events unfolded. Trump, his son, Giuliani and Brooks all spoke at the gathering, and their speeches were cited as evidence that they “directly incited the violence at the Capitol that followed.”
Congressman Swalwell’s suit is the first related to the Capitol riots that includes Congressman Brooks as a defendant.
Matthew Keiser, another of Swalwell’s attorneys, believes Brooks’ comments make him complicit in the riot. “We’re focusing on the incendiary comments at the rally that incited the crowd to go to the Capitol,” Keiser said in an email. “And we think Mo Brooks’s comments meet that standard.”
Joseph Caleb, another of Swalwell’s attorneys, pointed to how Brooks said that “our ancestors” sacrificed blood, sweat, tears “and sometimes their lives,” before asking the crowd if they were willing to do the same.
Caleb said the implication to Trump supporters was clear: violence was necessary.
“Of note, he told the crowd that it was time to start ‘kicking ass,’” Caleb added.
Representatives for Congressman Brooks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Members of Congress and their attorneys still don’t have much authority to bring a criminal charge against Trump, but they still have a chance to hold the former president accountable.
After the second impeachment trial, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he still believes Trump is liable for his actions leading up to that pivotal day. He hasn’t gotten away with anything yet, McConnell said. “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation.”
Kaiser agrees. “We are accepting the minority leader’s invitation to pursue that vehicle.”
“Congressman Swalwell has decided to pursue the legal remedy available to him,” Caleb said.