WASHINGTON D.C—Ten current Members of Congress are seeking to join a federal lawsuit filed by Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson 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 6th, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election.
The lawsuit, initially filed in February, 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.
The Members seeking to join the lawsuit with Representative Thompson are: Karen Bass (D-CA); Steve Cohen (D-TN); Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ); Veronica Escobar (D-TX); Hank Johnson, Jr. (D-GA); Marcy Kaptur (D-OH); Barbara Lee (D-CA); Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Pramila Jayapal (D-WA); and Maxine Waters (D-CA).
The plaintiffs were all prevented from carrying out their constitutional duties to certify the 2020 presidential election due to the violent mob that had overtaken the Capitol. The lawsuit seeks to use the justice system to hold Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and the violent white supremacists who participated in the insurrection accountable for their attack on democracy–something that even Senator Mitch McConnell has endorsed.
The amendment complaint was filed Tuesday morning in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. by the NAACP and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. Following the dissolution of the Proud Boys organization in February, the suit names the Warboys LLC, which operated in conjunction with the Proud Boys, and Enrique Tarrio, the leader of both Warboys and the Proud Boys, as additional defendants.
Some of the new allegations include:
- Representative Cohen began to contemplate where he would want to be buried. Once back in his office, he grabbed a baseball bat for protection as he sat in the dark for several hours.
- Representative Jayapal struggled to leave the House gallery safely, having just recovered from surgery. She was eventually forced to share a small, overcrowded room with other Members who refused to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. A few days later, Representative Jayapal tested positive for COVID-19 and endured symptoms for six weeks.
- Following the events of January 6th Representative Lee, knowing that she had narrowly escaped serious injury or her death on that date, began finalizing her plans for her estate.
- After Representative Nadler returned to his office waiting for the joint session of Congress to resume, he learned of the breach of the Capitol. He knew he could not shelter in his own office given that his name was on the door, so he instead hid in the Judiciary Committee Office for hours. Fearing for his safety and anticipating that he might have to evacuate the building, he prepared a “go-bag” of essential items.
- As Representative Watson Coleman was planning to enter the House physician’s office, she was ushered into a small room by Capitol police where she heard shouts and menacing noises from the insurgents in the next hallway. While trapped in the room, Representative Watson Coleman hoped that, if the rioters broke down the first door, the second thicker door would be strong enough to keep them out of the room.
The experiences of these Members were among the consequences of Trump and Giuliani’s alleged attempts to mobilize and prepare supporters for an attack.
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.
“I am heartened to be joined by ten of my colleagues in this critical effort to hold former President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Oath Keepers, and Proud Boys to account for their respective roles in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. We owe it to our families, the American public, and history to get to the truth about the conspiracy that fueled a violent mob to rampage the Capitol in an effort to stand in the way of the peaceful transfer of power,” said Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-2).
“I’m proud to stand with Chairman Thompson, President Johnson and the entirety of the NAACP in acting to ensure the safety of this democracy. What happened on January 6th must never happen again. To make that a reality, those responsible must be held accountable,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37).
“As I sat in my office on January 6th, after experiencing the attack on the chamber and our evacuation to safety, I feared that they were or could be rioters in the halls of Rayburn. During the attack and afterwards I thought that my life was in danger and the prospect of death entered my mind” said Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09).
“I’ve joined onto this complaint as a plaintiff because the threat to the safety of both our democracy and to me individually was blatantly and violently disregarded. There must be accountability for the violent disruption of our business and personal fear that has arisen,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).
“There must be accountability for the profound and destructive consequences of the January 6th attack on our Capitol, our democracy, and our country. It is my hope that this lawsuit helps bring that accountability,” said Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16).
“By inciting the deadliest and most destructive assault on the United States Capitol since the War of 1812, Donald Trump not only attacked me and all those inside Congress during the January 6th insurrection but he also attacked our Constitution, our country, and our very democracy,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07). “We must send a clear message to Donald Trump and everyone involved in inciting, planning, and carrying out the insurrection that there will be full accountability and justice for this lethal attack targeted at preventing us from doing our job.”
“The rule of law was brutally assaulted on 6 January, and today I join my colleagues as a Plaintiff in the case of Thompson v. Trump, which will hold accountable those responsible for that unprecedented attack on our democracy,” said Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04).
“The events of January 6 were no accident. There must be consequences for those who contributed to the coordinated attempt to overturn a free and fair election and harm our democracy. This lawsuit is an important step in repairing the damage that has been done, and I am pleased to join so many of my colleagues in this fight,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09).
“On January 6th Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani trampled our democracy, inciting a violent mob of white supremacists to overturn a free and fair election. Though he failed in his ultimate goal, the very foundation of our democracy was shaken. We cannot just let this shameful moment in our history pass, because next time, the consequences will be even graver. I am proud to stand with my colleagues and hold Donald Trump accountable for his attempt to destroy the fabric of this nation,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13).
“There is no question that the mob’s unlawful actions—their brutal, anti-Democratic attack against the very seat of our democracy—interfered with my ability to exercise my constitutional responsibility of certifying the 2020 presidential election. This violence was anything but spontaneous; it was the direct result of a conspiracy to incite a riot, instigated by President Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Today, without joy but with firm resolve, I have joined Congressman Bennie Thompson’s suit against those who solicited this violence. Those responsible for placing me and my colleagues in danger must face accountability for their criminality,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10)
“Donald Trump orchestrated one of the gravest attacks on our democracy in the history of this country, and he must face consequences. Donald Trump and his allies rallied a mob at the White House, encouraged them to storm the Capitol, and disrupt Members’ constitutional duties. Marauders, white supremacists, and members of right-wing terrorist organizations ransacked the Capitol, destroyed property, endangered Members of Congress, and defiled the seat of what is supposed to be the greatest democracy in the world. These actions must have consequences and the country cannot heal from the wounds inflicted on our institutions by the previous President until he, along with Rudy Giuliani the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, are brought to justice and held accountable,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43).
“What we witnessed on January 6, 2021, was the climax of a meticulously organized coup incited by Donald Trump that placed Members of Congress and the integrity of our democracy in peril. We witnessed Donald Trump chip away at our nation’s civility and dignity with his failed leadership for the past four years. In his last act of desperation, he conspired with Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Rudy Giuliani to stop the constitutional process of certifying the 2020 presidential election while also disenfranchising African-American voters who cast valid ballots,” said Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP.
“We are pleased that such a distinguished group of Representatives has joined this suit, which seeks to hold accountable the principal architects of the assault on the Capitol and on democracy that occurred on January 6. While the threat to the peaceful transfer of power was profound, this lawsuit provides a powerful means to redress the harm caused to these Members of Congress, explore in more detail the dark forces that contributed to the insurrection we observed and demonstrate that our courts are available to protect against such lawlessness,” said Joe Sellers, Partner at Cohen Milstein, Chair of the firm’s Executive.
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. This case is a continuation of that work.