Rep. Eric Swalwell sues Trump and allies over Capitol riot

WASHINGTON — Rep. Eric Swalwell filed suit Friday against former President Donald Trump and allies who spoke at the “Save America” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, saying their “campaign of lies and incendiary rhetoric” fueled the insurrection.

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Last month, Trump supporters descended on the Capitol as Congress was convened to ratify 2020 presidential election results in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden. The hourslong siege left at least five people dead, including Capitol police Officer Brian Sicknick, and caused a delay in confirming Biden’s win.

Swalwell’s lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, accused Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., of a conspiracy to violate civil rights, along with negligence, inciting a riot and inflicting emotional distress. It follows a similar suit filed by Rep. Bennie Thompson last month.

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Swalwell, who served as one of the nine House impeachment managers in last month’s impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate, highlighted the baseless election fraud claims pushed for months by the Trumps, Giuliani and Brooks. He pointed to comments made by the then-president on social media before and after polls opened in November, which cast doubt over the election results, and his well-publicized efforts to influence state election officials to overturn results in his favor.

The younger Trump, Giuliani and Brooks repeated and advanced the false election claims for months, with Giuliani spearheading efforts to overturn elections in state courts across the country. A majority of the 62 lawsuits filed to challenge results in key battleground states were dismissed outright as meritless.

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At the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally, the Trumps, Giuliani and Brooks continued to highlight their false allegations, according to Swalwell’s suit and video from the event. The younger Trump lambasted Republicans “who have not been willing to actually fight” for his father and said the Jan. 6 gathering would “send a message” that “This is Donald Trump’s Republican party.”

Giuliani repeated false claims that it was “perfectly legal” for Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of the Electoral College votes, saying failure to do as much “would amount to cowardice and even treason,” according to the suit. Before the storming of the Capitol, Giuliani told the crowd that it was time for “trial by combat.” Later, rioters descending on the Capitol could be heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

Brooks also called for violence, according to Swalwell, telling the crowd that it was time for “American patriots (to) start taking down names and kicking (expletive)!”

After Swalwell’s lawsuit was filed Friday, Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, called the California Democrat “a low-life with no credibility” in a statement obtained by The Washington Post and CNBC.

“After failing miserably with two impeachment hoaxes” Swalwell is “attacking our greatest President with yet another witch hunt,” he said.

The arguments made by the lawsuit filed Friday fell along similar lines to those made last month during Trump’s historic second impeachment trial in the Senate. The former president was twice impeached by the House, once in 2019 and again following the Jan. 6 riot, and twice acquitted by the Senate.

The suit seeks unspecified damages. Swalwell also wants a court to order all of the defendants to provide written notice to him a week before they plan to have a rally in Washington that would draw more than 50 people.

Presidents are historically afforded broad immunity from lawsuits for actions they take in their role as commander in chief. But Swalwell’s lawsuit, like the one by Thompson, was brought against Trump in his personal, not official, capacity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.