WASHINGTON — Rep. Eric Swalwell on Friday became the second House Democrat to file a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and his allies in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
What You Need To Know
- Rep. Eric Swalwell filed a lawsuit Friday against former President Donald Trump and his allies in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot
- Swalwell, who was one of the House impeachment managers at Trump’s impeachment trial last month, accuses them of inciting the riot, violating civil rights laws and other offenses
- The California Democrat alleges that Trump’s repeated lies about fraud in the presidential election and his rhetoric at a Washington rally incited the mob to storm the Capitol
- Trump’s spokesman Jason Miller called Swalwell a “low-life” with “no credibility.”
The California Democrat, who was one of the House impeachment managers at Trump’s impeachment trial last month, filed the lawsuit Friday morning in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It names Trump; his son, Donald Trump Jr.; Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL); and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, as defendants.
Swalwell accuses the defendants of violating civil rights laws, including conspiracy to interfere with Congress’ official duties; negligence; bias-related crimes regarding inciting a riot and terrorism; infliction of emotional distress; and aiding and abetting assault.
The congressman alleges that Trump’s repeated lies about fraud in the presidential election, his invitation to supporters to attend a rally in Washington on the day Congress voted on certifying Joe Biden’s victory and his rhetoric at that rally incited the mob to storm the Capitol.
Swalwell also accuses Trump Jr., Brooks and Giuliani of spreading disinformation about election fraud and inciting the crowd in their own speeches Jan. 6.
Swalwell argues in the lawsuit that, unwilling to accept defeat, Trump lied to his followers that the election was stolen and that Biden’s victory could be stopped. After Trump’s more than 60 “frivolous” lawsuits and efforts to intimidate officials to overturn the results failed, the then-president called on his supporters to act, the congressman says in the lawsuit.
“The Defendants, in short, convinced the mob that something was occurring that— if actually true—might indeed justify violence to some, and then sent that mob to the Capitol with violence-laced calls for immediate action,” the suit says.
The lawsuit says Swalwell, other lawmakers, police officers and Capitol staff “were put in moral danger” by the violent mob.
“Many members of Congress, including the Plaintiff, were trapped in the House chamber as plainclothes officers barricaded doors and held off the mob at gunpoint,” the suit says. “Fearing for their lives, the Plaintiff and others masked their identities as members of Congress, texted loved ones in case the worst happened, and took shelter throughout the Capitol complex.”
Swalwell’s lawsuit adds: “Those with knowledge claimed that during this moment of national horror, Trump was ‘delighted’ and was ‘confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was.’ Others described Trump as ‘borderline enthusiastic’ about the unfolding violence.”
In the lawsuit, Swalwell asks for an unspecified amount in damages, a declaration that the defendants violating the laws he lists and written notice to him a week before they plan to have a rally in Washington that would draw more than 50 people.
During the Jan. 6 rally near the White House, Trump told the crowd to march to the Capitol. He told his supporters, “You will never take back our country with weakness” and, “If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.”
Trump’s spokesman Jason Miller called Swalwell a “low-life” with “no credibility.”
“Now, after failing miserably with two impeachment hoaxes,” Swalwell is attacking “our greatest President with yet another witch hunt,” Miller said. “It’s a disgrace that a compromised Member of Congress like Swalwell still sits on the House Intelligence Committee.”
In a statement emailed to Spectrum News, Brooks called Swalwell's lawsuit "frivolous" and said he would wear the "scurrilous and malicious lawsuit like a badge of courage.”
“I make no apologies whatsoever for fighting for accurate and honest elections," Brooks said.
“Under no circumstances will Swalwell ... stop me from fighting for America," the congressman added.
The Trump Organization has not responded to a request for comment from Trump Jr. Giuliani, who called for "trial by combat" in his Jan. 6 speech, also has not commented publicly on the lawsuit.
Trump was impeached in the House on a charge of inciting an insurrection, but the Senate acquitted him.
Last month, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, filed a federal lawsuit also accusing Trump of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol, which resulted in five deaths, and conspiring with Giuliani and extremist groups to try to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s win.
Unlike Thompson’s lawsuit — filed against Trump, Giuliani and some far-right extremist groups whose members are alleged to have participated in the insurrection — Swalwell’s did not specify whether he was filing in his personal capacity or official, which would require additional approvals from the House and involve House attorneys.
Both lawsuits cite a federal civil rights law that was enacted to counter the Ku Klux Klan's intimidation of officials. Swalwell's attorney Philip Andonian praised Thompson’s lawsuit filed under a Reconstruction-era law called the Ku Klux Klan Act, and said they were behind it 100%, but also saw the need for this one, too.
“We see ourselves as having a different angle to this, holding Trump accountable for the incitement, the disinformation,” he said.
Presidents are historically afforded broad immunity from lawsuits for actions they take in their role as commander in chief. But the lawsuit, like the one by Thompson, was brought against Trump in his personal, not official, capacity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.