Lawsuit also names Giuliani, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers
Following acquittal by the U.S. Senate in the second impeachment trial, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell openly encouraged litigation against former President Trump, saying: “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.”
There is no shortage of lawsuits for the one-term, twice-impeached former president. On Tuesday, the NAACP and Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson joined the chorus of litigants, filing a federal lawsuit accusing Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers of conspiring to incite a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol, with the goal 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 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.
“January 6th was one of the most shameful days in our country’s history, and it was instigated by the president himself,” said Congressman Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security since 2019. “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,” continued Thompson.
The lawsuit alleges that the insurrection was the 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.
The NAACP is representing Congressman Thompson in this civil lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday morning in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. by the NAACP and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. Other members of Congress, including Representatives Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), intend to join the litigation as plaintiffs in the coming days and weeks.
“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,” said Derrick Johnson, president, and CEO, NAACP.
“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,” continued Johnson. “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.”
“The insurrection at the Capitol did not just spontaneously occur—it was the product of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani lies about the election. 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,” said Joe Sellers, Partner at Cohen Milstein, chair of the firm’s Executive Committee and chair of the Civil Rights & Employment Practice Group.
The NAACP has, since its founding, represented individuals in court to eliminate race-based discrimination. Throughout the 2020 election cycle, and after the election, the NAACP utilized the judiciary to protect the rights of African American voters and ensure that their ballots were counted. The organization stated that this case is a continuation of that work.
Information provided, in part, by the NAACP.