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Oath Keepers respond to Capitol riot lawsuit, say they didn't interrupt Congress' duties

The suit claimed that rioters, incited by speakers at a Jan. 6 rally, kept lawmakers from doing their official job counting Electoral College votes after the presidential election.
Image: Prosecutors say Oath Keepers militia members conspired in U.S. Capitol siege
Members of the Oath Keepers march down the East Front steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.Jim Bourg / Reuters file

An attorney for the far-right Oath Keepers urged a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit over the Capitol riot filed by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and 10 other House members.

"There is no allegation that defendant Oath Keepers engaged in violence or entered the Capitol itself," their attorney said in response to the lawsuit.

The suit, filed in February, also named former President Donald Trump, his former attorney Rudy Giuliani and the Proud Boys. It claimed that rioters, incited by speakers at a rally Jan. 6, kept the House members from doing their official jobs counting Electoral College votes after Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election.

In their response, the Oath Keepers argued that the Constitution and federal law do not specify what individual House members are to do when the electoral votes are counted. Therefore, they had no formal role or official conduct that could be the target of interference, they said.

The House has a duty to observe the vote count, the response said, but that is an institutional responsibility, not one belonging to individual members. And to the extent that the counting was interrupted, the Oath Keepers said, Congress has only itself to blame, because objections raised by members themselves stopped the count.

The response was filed by Kerry Lee Morgan, a lawyer in Wyandotte, Michigan, who ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for the state Supreme Court in 2018 and 2020.

In their lawsuit, the House members said Trump, Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers shared a common goal "of employing intimidation, harassment, and threats" to stop the Jan. 6 vote count. The riot was "a direct, intended, and foreseeable result" of the conspiracy, it said.

The suit invoked the Civil Rights Act of 1871, commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allows lawsuits against government officials for claims that they conspired to violate civil rights.