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House Democrat files lawsuit against Trump over Capitol riot, cites violation of 'Ku Klux Klan Act'


The lawsuit uses Mitch McConnell's own words

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A top Democratic congressman filed a lawsuit in federal court against former President Donald Trump on Tuesday over Trump's alleged role in the deadly violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

What are the details?

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, filed the lawsuit to hold Trump personally accountable for his alleged role in the Capitol riot.

The lawsuit — which named Rudy Giuliani, Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers as co-defendants — claims Trump and his co-defendants "plotted, coordinated, and executed a common plan to prevent Congress from discharging its official duties in certifying the results of the presidential election."

Specifically, the lawsuit claims Trump and his co-defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which, the lawsuit explains, "was intended to protect against conspiracies, through violence and intimidation, that sought to prevent Members of Congress from discharging their official duties. The statute was enacted in response to violence and intimidation in which the Ku Klux Klan and other organizations were engaged during that time period."

To help make its case, the lawsuit says that claims made by Trump and Giuliani about the integrity of the election laid the foundation for the violence of Jan. 6, which was brought to a head by Trump's rally.

"The carefully orchestrated series of events that unfolded at the Save America rally and the storming of the Capitol was no accident or coincidence," the suit says. "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 suit was filed against Trump in his personal capacity, and Thompson is listed as the plaintiff in his personal, not official, capacity.

The lawsuit seeks "declaratory judgment" that Trump and his co-defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

What is the background?

The lawsuit was filed just three days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) excoriated Trump, placing blame for the Capitol riot squarely on Trump's shoulders.

Although McConnell voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial on grounds that the Senate does not have jurisdiction to apply the Constitution's impeachment mechanisms against a now-private citizen, McConnell made clear that Trump's Senate acquittal did not absolve him from potential criminal and civil consequences.

"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he's in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run," McConnell said.

"He didn't get away with anything — yet, yet," he added. "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation, and former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one."

The lawsuit cites McConnell's comments seemingly in support of the lawsuit.

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