Democrats lean on Ku Klux Klan Act to hold Trump and Giuliani accountable for Capitol riot
Republican enablers may have let former President Donald Trump get away with inciting a deadly Capitol riot, but his recent impeachment acquittal isn’t squelching the seemingly endless and much-deserved flood of lawsuits against Trump. The NAACP, Rep. Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, and the civil rights legal firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll filed a suit against the former commander in chief Tuesday in federal court.
In the suit, the advocates allege that Trump, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and the hate groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers “conspired to incite” the march to the Capitol to disrupt “by the use of force, intimidation and threat,” Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. “The insurrection at the Capitol did not just spontaneously occur—it was the product of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani lies about the election,” Joe Sellers, a partner at Cohen Milstein said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “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.”
Trump urged the march to the Capitol during his Save America rally on January 6, and an insurrection that left Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick dead, reportedly hit with a fire extinguisher, followed. More than a dozen other police officers were injured; three people died in medical emergencies; and one rioter was shot and killed when she attempted to breach the Capitol.
Thompson, the NAACP, and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll cited the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 in their lawsuit, which is intended to “protect against conspiracies, through violence and intimidation, that sought to prevent Members of Congress from discharging their official duties.”
The legal team stated in the suit:
“The insurrection at the Capitol was a direct, intended, and foreseeable result of the Defendants’ unlawful conspiracy. It was instigated according to a common plan that the Defendants pursued since the election held in November 2020, culminating in an assembly denominated as the “Save America” rally held at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, during which Defendants Trump and Giuliani incited a crowd of thousands to descend upon the Capitol in order to prevent or delay through the use of force the counting of Electoral College votes. As part of this unified plan to prevent the counting of Electoral College votes, Defendants Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, through their leadership, acted in concert to spearhead the assault on the Capitol while the angry mob that Defendants Trump and Giuliani incited descended on the Capitol. 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.”
The NAACP cited in its news release a segment of Giuliani’s remarks at the Save America rally last month. “If we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let’s have trial by combat,” the unscrupulous attorney said. The NAACP also quoted the former president in its release. “So we are going to … walk down Pennsylvania Avenue… we’re … going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country,” Trump said at the rally.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement that Trump needs to be held accountable both “for deliberately inciting and colluding with white supremacists to stage a coup” and for “his continuing efforts to disenfranchise African-American voters.” “The insurrection was the culmination of a carefully orchestrated, months-long 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,” Johnson added. “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 6th ever happens again.”
Thompson called January 6 “one of the most shameful days in our country’s history,” and he added that “it was instigated by the President himself.” “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,” the congressman said. “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,” he added. “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.”