Jessica Marie Watkins (2nd from L) and Donovan Ray Crowl (Center), both from Ohio, march down the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol with the Oath Keepers militia group among supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, January 6, 2021. Both have since been indicted by federal authorities for their roles in the siege on the U.S. Capitol.
Jim Bourg | Reuters
Ten more Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday joined a federal lawsuit accusing former President Donald Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and several right-wing extremist groups of conspiring to incite the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol complex riot.
The suit, first filed by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and the NAACP, accuses the defendants of violating a federal law by sparking the violence with the goal of preventing Congress from confirming the election of President Joe Biden. The cited law, the Ku Klux Klan Act, was first used in the late 1800s to target the racist KKK for its violence against Black Americans and its intimidation of members of Congress from the South.
In addition to Trump and Giuliani, the suit names extremist groups the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and Warboys as defendants.
The House members who joined the suit are: California representatives Karen Bass, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters; Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey; Veronica Escobar of Texas; Hank Johnson Jr. of Georgia; Marcy Kaptur of Ohio; Jerry Nadler of New York; and Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.
An amended version of the lawsuit adding the new House members as plaintiffs, and making additional allegations, was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. It seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated the law through their conduct, an injunction against similar actions in the future and unspecified financial damages.
The Capitol riot began shortly after Trump, Giuliani and other supporters of the then-president addressed thousands of people at a rally outside the White House, where they encouraged people to help them fight against the confirmation of Biden as president.
Trump and his lawyers for months falsely claimed that he was swindled out of an electoral victory by widespread ballot fraud in several states.
Five people died as a result of the riot, including a Capitol Police office, Brian Sicknick.
The suit accuses the defendants of coordination in efforts to undermine the democratic electoral process and to block the legal votes of millions of ballots cast by Black Americans.
“I’ve joined onto this complaint as a plaintiff because the threat to the safety of both our democracy and to me individually was blatantly and violently disregarded. There must be accountability for the violent disruption of our business and personal fear that has arisen,” said Watson Coleman in a statement.
A spokesman for Trump, and Giuliani, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The suit says Cohen, during the invasion of the Capitol complex by hundreds of rioters, began to contemplate where he would want to be buried if he was killed, and that he sat in the dark in his office for hours as he held a baseball bat during the disturbance.
It notes that Jayapal tested positive for Covid-19 days after she and other House members sought shelter during the riot in a small room where some representatives refused to wear masks.
And the suit says that Lee, after realizing she had escaped being injured or killed in the riot, began finalizing plans for her estate following Jan. 6.
Thompson, in a statement, said: “I am heartened to be joined by ten of my colleagues in this critical effort to hold former President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Oath Keepers, and Proud Boys to account for their respective roles in the January 6th attack on the Capitol.”
“We owe it to our families, the American public, and history to get to the truth about the conspiracy that fueled a violent mob to rampage [through] the Capitol in an effort to stand in the way of the peaceful transfer of power,” Thompson said.