WASHINGTON — The NAACP filed suit on Tuesday against former President Donald Trump; his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani; and two far-right extremist groups in connection with the deadly riot last month at the U.S. Capitol.
Officials accused Trump, Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers of “conspiring to incite a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election.” Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, smashing windows and brawling with police officers as Congress was in session to ratify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.
Five people died as a result of the violence, including Capitol police Officer Brian Sicknick. Dozens of people, including several self-avowed members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, have since been arrested.
The NAACP and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll filed suit Tuesday morning on behalf of Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. Other lawmakers, including Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., are expected to later join the suit as plaintiffs, The New York Times reported.
Attorneys allege that Trump, Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers violated what’s known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, a law enacted in 1871 that’s aimed at protecting “against conspiracies, through violence and intimidation, that sought to prevent Members of Congress from discharging their official duties.” The NAACP pointed to Trump’s rhetoric in the lead-up to the election, including his refusal to say he would accept a peaceful transition of power and his praise of supporters who surrounded a Biden campaign bus in early November, as evidence of his “endorsement of the threat of violence.”
In a news release Tuesday, NAACP officials said the defendants “shared a common goal of employing intimidation, harassment and threats to stop the certification of the Electoral College. They succeeded in their plan.”
The U.S. House of Representatives last month impeached Trump for his role in the riot. Over the weekend, the Senate acquitted Trump, although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell later said the former president was “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection and noted that he was not immune to civil or criminal prosecution.
McConnell was among 43 senators to vote in favor of Trump’s acquittal.
The impeachment made Trump the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. In December 2019, the House impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection to a whistleblower complaint that raised concerns about comments he made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.