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10 lawmakers join suit over Capitol riot

by ANNIE KARNI THE NEW YORK TIMES | April 8, 2021 at 4:17 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- A group of 10 Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday joined a federal lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claiming that the two men violated a 19th century statute when they tried to prevent the certification of the presidential election Jan. 6.

Reps. Karen Bass of California, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Hank Johnson Jr. of Georgia, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, Jerrold Nadler of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Maxine Waters of California on Wednesday joined the lawsuit that originally also named the Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group, and the Oath Keepers militia group.

But since the official dissolution of the Proud Boys organization in February, the suit now names as defendants The Van Dyke Organization LLC, Warboys LLC and Jazu Transport LLC, which it describes as successors to the Proud Boys.

The legal action accuses Trump, Giuliani and the other groups of conspiring to incite a violent riot at the Capitol, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the election. It contends that Trump and Giuliani violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 statute that includes protections against violent conspiracies that interfered with Congress' constitutional duties.

The NAACP originally filed the suit on behalf of Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi in February, adding to a host of legal problems that Trump is facing since leaving office. A spokesman for Trump, Jason Miller, said at the time that Trump did not "plan, produce or organize the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse."

Thompson and the other plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the lawsuit that was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, as well as injunctive relief. The dollar amounts would be determined by a jury at a trial, an NAACP spokesman said.

The lawmakers joining the suit were in the House gallery when pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Many of the lawmakers who were in the building that day continue to suffer from the trauma of hearing gunshots and seeing broken windows and the faces of rioters on the other side of the doors, the NAACP said. That includes nightmares and difficulty sleeping.

"As I sat in my office on Jan. 6 with rioters roaming the hallways, I feared for my life and thought that I was going to die," Cohen said in a statement, even contemplating whether he would want to be buried with his family in Memphis or at the Congressional Cemetery.

"This violence was anything but spontaneous," Nadler, who sought refuge in the Judiciary Committee's office for hours, said in a statement. "It was the direct result of a conspiracy to incite a riot, instigated by President Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers."

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