After the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump on the article of impeachment for "inciting an insurrection," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he believed a civil lawsuit could be brought against the former president.
"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen. Unless the statute of limitations is run, he's still liable for everything he did while he was in office," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "He didn't get away with anything, yet."
And now House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MD) is taking McConnell's advice. He filed a lawsuit against Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for their alleged roles in the Capitol riots.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants "conspired to incite an assembled crowd to march upon and enter the Capitol of the United States for the common purpose of disrupting, by the use of force, intimidation and threat, the approval by Congress of the count of votes cast by members of the Electoral College as required by Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution."
Thompson's team said the defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was passed to keep the KKK from causing violence and intimidation that prevented Congress from carrying out their legislative duties.
"...the Defendants each intended to prevent, and ultimately delayed, members of Congress from discharging their duty commanded by the United States Constitution to approve the results of the Electoral College in order to elect the next President and Vice President of the United States," the lawsuit states.
The plaintiff makes the argument that although not all of the defendants were physically present during the Jan. 6 riot, they all coordinated "to use intimidation, harassment and threats" to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
"The insurrection at the Capitol was a direct, intended, and foreseeable result of the Defendants' unlawful conspiracy," the lawsuit states.
Even though the KKK Act is rarely utilized, Thompson's attorney, Joseph Sellers, sees it as a good thing.
“Fortunately, this hasn’t been used very much,” Sellers told the Associated Press. “But what we see here is so unprecedented that it’s really reminiscent of what gave rise to the enactment of this legislation right after the Civil War.”
The lawsuit filed today under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, is to hold Trump, Giuliani, Proud Boys, & Oath Keepers accountable for the insurrection on Jan 6 at our nation’s Capitol. Please read the lawsuit so you can have all the facts! https://t.co/F5it5zlewA— Bennie G. Thompson (@BennieGThompson) February 16, 2021
Former Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told CNN the former president's role (or lack thereof) was made clear during last week's impeachment trial.
"President Trump has been acquitted in the Democrats' latest Impeachment Witch Hunt, and the facts are irrefutable," Miller said in a statement. "President Trump did not plan, produce or organize the Jan. 6th rally on the Ellipse. President Trump did not incite or conspire to incite any violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6th."
The NAACP filed the lawsuit on Thompson's behalf. Other members of Congress are expected to join the suit. Thompson is asking for "compensatory damages," although it's unclear what the price tag would be.