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Second lawsuit filed against Trump over Jan. 6 Capitol riot

Rep. Swalwell is trying to make the same arguments made during the impeachment to win a civil lawsuit.
Image: Supporters of President Donald Trump rally on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021
Supporters of President Donald Trump rally on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — A Democratic congressman who helped argue the House impeachment case against former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against him in federal court Friday, seeking to turn those allegations into a civil case.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, accused Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Rudolph Giuliani, and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., of violating federal civil rights laws and local incitement laws. All spoke at a rally near the White House on January 6 before members of the crowd moved on to the Capitol.

The mob attack was "a direct and foreseeable consequence of the defendants' false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the defendants' express calls for violence," the suit said.

Swalwell said he was among members of Congress who were trapped in the House chamber as the rioters approached. They feared for their lives and "texted loved ones in case the worst happened," it said.

Like a similar lawsuit filed last month by Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and the NAACP, this case invokes 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.

The earlier suit contended that Trump and Giuliani conspired with two extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Swalwell focused on the former president and speakers at the rally and said they "directly incited the violence at the Capitol."

Like the House impeachment articles, the new lawsuit said the former president began accusing Democrats of trying to steal the election well before the voting began. After the votes were tabulated, he and the others named in the suit conspired to undermine confidence in the results, Swalwell said.

When the siege at the Capitol began, the former president "had the power to stop the rioters but refused and instead encouraged them," he said.

Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, said in a statement that Swalwell is "a low-life with no credibility" who is engaged in "a witch hunt." In response to the earlier suit, he said, "President Trump did not plan, produce or organize the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse. President Trump did not incite or conspire to incite any violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6."

Swalwell's lawsuit quoted Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who said after the vote acquitting the former president that President Trump is still liable for everything he did while in office. "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," McConnell said.

"This suit follows," Swalwell's lawsuit said.