NAACP Lawsuit Ties Trump and Giuliani to Proud Boys and Oath Keepers in Capitol Attack
Former President Donald Trump escaped Senate conviction last week, but he may not be so lucky in a real court of law. A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the NAACP will be the first to test that theory.
Joined by Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, the NAACP filed a lawsuit against Trump, his disgraced attorney Rudy Giulliani and two right-wing extremist groups for their roles in the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.
The plaintiffs claim that Trump and Giuliani collaborated with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to incite the mob in violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act, which was established post-Reconstruction as a means to prevent white supremacist violence against former slaves and African American members of Congress.
The suit became a priority after 43 Republican senators voted to acquit Trump Friday of the incitement of insurrection article that landed him a second House impeachment. Though there were 57 votes cast to convict him, including seven Republican senators, Trump escaped being “removed” and potentially banned from holding future office by just 10 votes that would have met the two-thirds requirement.
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But immediately following the impeachment trial, some key Republicans spoke out with condemnation of Trump’s actions, and inactions, that day, alleging he was undoubtedly responsible for the tragic events. They pinned acquittal votes on jurisdictional issues while maintaining the former president could face criminal prosecution and civil litigation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) made a scathing speech following the Senate trial, almost daring courts to hold Trump accountable and excusing himself for not doing so despite his assessment that the former president was “practically and morally responsible.”
McConnell asserted that the mob was moved to action “ because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth – because he was angry he’d lost an election.”
“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.”
What the NAACP and others allege in the Tuesday lawsuit will be considered on a civil level but Trump may also face criminal charges. Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is weighing evidence and the viability of charges against Trump for his role in the riot. Immediately after the Senate trial, a petition calling began circulating that calls on attorney general nominee Merrick Garland to launch an investigation once he is confirmed.
The NAACP case seeks to tie Trump’s actions and those of his co-defendants to white supremacy, which could present some challenges as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys deny they are racist organizations. Though that may be hard to legally square, NAACP President Derrick Johnson joins in a widely held belief that both groups are at the least domestic terrorists.
“If we don’t put a check on the spread of domestic terrorism, it will consume this nation and transform it to something that none of us recognize.”
Trump advisor Jason Miller responded to Tuesday’s lawsuit in a statement insinuating the former president’s Senate acquittal is “irrefutable” evidence that he is innocent of all incitement charges. McConnell’s speech alone refutes that claim.
Instead, Miller points to the recent diversionary rhetoric of questioning what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser knew ahead of the attack. It’s an interesting tactic to allege Pelosi was somehow responsible in an attack where she was one of several specific mob targets.
The court proceeding(s) ahead will operate without political influence that bound some senators to acquittal. The NAACP may be the first suit brought against Trump for his role in the insurrection but it won’t likely be the last.