Politics

Lawmaker Sues Trump Over U.S. Capitol Riot In Wake Of Senate Acquittal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced she would launch a 9/11-style commission to study the “facts and causes” related to the insurrection.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), joined by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), at a news conference about Russian meddling in the U.S. election and other issues, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 29, 2017. | AP Images
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), joined by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), at a news conference about Russian meddling in the U.S. election and other issues, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 29, 2017. | AP Images

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) on Tuesday became the first known member of Congress to file a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump over the deadly U.S. Capitol riot. The NAACP and a civil rights law firm filed the suit on Thompson's behalf.

Separately, on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced she would launch a 9/11-style commission to study the “facts and causes” of the insurrection.

These developments follow the Senate’s acquittal of Trump over the weekend in his second impeachment trial. At 57-43, it was the most bipartisan vote to convict a president in U.S. history — and the conclusion to the first impeachment trial held after a commander-in-chief left office. 

While Democratic impeachment managers built a damning case using Trump’s own rhetoric and calls to action, as well as harrowing footage of the violent insurrection on January 6, many questions about the attack — which disrupted Congress’ Electoral College certification process — remain unanswered. In their defense, Trump’s lawyers largely criticized Democrats for their rhetoric and focused on the process rather than the allegations raised. 

Now, Rep. Thompson, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, is suing Trump, along with personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, for allegedly violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 by “conspiring to prevent [Thompson] and other Members of Congress” from “discharging … official duties” like certifying the election results, according to the lawsuit filed in D.C. federal court. The lawsuit mentions the pro-Trump Stop the Steal rally on January 6 where the then-president spoke, as well as the defendants’ “ongoing course of action” to contest the presidential election results. 

The suit continues: “The carefully orchestrated series of events that unfolded at the Save America rally and the storming of the Capitol was no accident or coincidence. 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.” 

In the suit, the Mississippi Democrat, who is 72, also pointed to the increased health risk to his age group that came from sheltering in place close to other lawmakers during the attack. He reportedly had already received the second dose of a vaccine by January 6. In the days after the attack, multiple lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 and accused Republican colleagues of refusing to wear masks. 

The New York Times reported that Thompson said he would not have sued Trump if the former president had been convicted. The representative is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, according to the suit. It is expected to be the first of more lawsuits against Trump after his acquittal — and only one of many ongoing legal investigations into his conduct. For instance, officials in Georgia are investigating the president’s efforts to interfere with the state’s final vote count.

Since the Senate voted to acquit, Republicans have offered a myriad of statements — with most of them continuing to unite around Trump, whose base maintains a stronghold in the party and among voters. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), after voting to acquit Trump despite blaming him for inciting the deadly mobs, delivered a speech on Saturday ripping into the former president but defending the decision to acquit him. A conviction could have opened the door to preventing Trump from holding future federal office.

"We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation,” McConnell said. “And former Presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.”

In her Monday letter to Congress, Pelosi wrote that retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré had been evaluating lawmakers’ security needs, adding that his findings merited additional investigation “to provide for the safety of Members and the security of the Capitol.”

“Now, as always, security is the order of the day: the security of our country, the security of our Capitol which is the temple of our democracy, and the security of our Members,” she wrote.

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