Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday, accusing Donald J. Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers of conspiring to incite a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 in hopes of preventing Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election.
The lawsuit alleges that, by preventing Congress from carrying out its official duties, Trump, Giuliani and the hate groups directly violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act.
Following Trump’s recent acquittal by the U.S. Senate in the second impeachment trial, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell openly encouraged litigation against Trump.
“We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one,” he said.
Allegedly, the insurrection occurred as a 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.
After witnessing Capitol police barricading the doors of the House chamber with furniture, Rep. Thompson (D-Miss.) and fellow lawmakers put on gas masks and were rushed into the Longworth House Office Building where they sheltered with more than 200 other representatives, staffers and family members.
The NAACP and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in Federal District Court in the District. Other members of Congress, including Representatives Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), intend to join the litigation as plaintiffs in the coming days and weeks.
Thompson, who seeks compensatory and punitive damages as detailed in the lawsuit, spoke to the media on Tuesday.
“I am privileged to partner with the NAACP to have my day in court so that the perpetrators of putting members of Congress at risk can be held accountable,” Thompson said.
Evidence suggests that the coup represents a coordinated, monthslong attempt to destroy democracy, to block the results of a fair and democratic election and to disenfranchise millions of ballots legally cast by Black voters.
NAACP officials said the civil rights organization moved forward in representing Congressman Thompson in the lawsuit because the events on January 6 served as yet another attempt by Trump and his allies to ensure that African-American voters would be disenfranchised. doing their job and certifying the election results.
Thompson agrees with the NAACP.
“January 6th was one of the most shameful days in our country’s history and it was instigated by the President himself,” Thompson said. “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. It is by the slimmest of luck that the outcome was not deadlier.”
“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. 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,” Thompson said.
Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO, said Trump’s actions count as both calculating and intentional.
“Donald Trump needs to be held accountable for deliberately inciting and colluding with white supremacists to stage a coup, in his continuing efforts to disenfranchise African-American voters,” he said. “The insurrection was the culmination of a carefully orchestrated, monthslong plan to destroy democracy, to block the results of a fair and democratic election and to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of African-American voters who cast valid ballots.”
“Since our founding, the NAACP has gone to the courthouse to put an end to actions that discriminate against African- American voters. We are now bringing this case to continue our work to protect our democracy and make sure nothing like what happened on January 6 ever happens again,” Johnson added.
Joe Sellers, partner at Cohen Milstein, chair of the firm’s Executive Committee and chair of the Civil Rights & Employment Practice Group, shared his perspective.
“The insurrection at the Capitol did not just spontaneously occur – it was the product of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani lies about the election,” Sellers said. “With the Senate failing to hold the President accountable, we must use the full weight of the legal system to do so.”
“The judicial system was an essential bulwark against the President during his time in office, and its role in protecting our democracy against future extremism is more important than ever,” he said.
The lawsuit alleges that Trump and Giuliani violated 42 U.S.C. 1985(1), often referred to as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which was passed in 1871 in response to KKK violence and intimidation preventing Members of Congress in the South during Reconstruction from carrying out their constitutional duties. The statute was intended specifically to protect against conspiracies.
Trump’s Legal Woes Far from Over
Four years ago, USA Today issued a report which documented Donald Trump’s involvement with the courts. As of June 2016, according to the publication, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court – a number far exceeding that of any previous presidential candidate.
And now that the former president has segued to just being “Donald,” there remain at least six ongoing cases – all pending – which place him in various levels of legal jeopardy.
According to data compiled by CNN, the following lawsuits will continue to plague Trump and his legal team:
1) Manhattan district attorney’s office looking into financial inner workings of the Trump Organization. This case, which is being overseen by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr., grew out of questions regarding several hush money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 election by then-Trump fixer Michael Cohen to women alleging they had engaged in extramarital affairs with Trump. The investigation is broader than just the hush money, however.
2) New York state attorney general examining how Trump valued his assets. In the wake of Cohen’s testimony alleging that Trump, along with his family members, had repeatedly “inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes,” New York AG Letitia James announced that she would investigate the claims to see if they elevate to the level of fraud.
3) Attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., suing over the emoluments clause. This suit was originally brought way back in 2017, alleging that Trump was violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by profiting from foreign governments’ spending in his Trump hotel in downtown Washington.
4) E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit. Days before the 2020 election, a federal judge rejected an attempt by Trump, represented by Department of Justice lawyers, to effectively dismiss a case brought by Carroll alleging that Trump had raped her in the 1990s. He denied her allegation, saying, “She’s not my type.” The case is now proceeding through the federal court system.
5) Defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” who sued Trump back in 2017. She argued that in his denial of her allegation that he had sexually assaulted her in 2007, he had defamed her and subjected her to harassment. Trump lost a bid to dismiss the case in late 2019, but the proceedings had been placed on hold until after he left office.
6) Mary Trump’s lawsuit. The niece of the President and author of the scathing bestseller “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” sued Trump in September, alleging that he, his sister and his late brother had committed fraud to keep her from getting her fair share of the estate of Trump’s father, Fred Sr.
In addition, Trump could still face obstruction of justice charges for his attempts to impede and inhibit the investigation into the 2016 election and Russia’s role in it by special counsel Robert Mueller.