An impeached Trump was acquitted, but he is far from free of legal entanglements as a current lawsuit filed by Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and the NAACP suggest. They charge that Trump incited the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 in violation of a Reconstruction Era law, commonly defined as the Ku Klux Klan Act. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, and extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers are also named.
According to the civil lawsuit, “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.” It further noted that Giuliani and the extremist groups “played a leadership role of the riotous crowd and provided military-style assistance sufficient to overcome any Capitol Police resistance.”
The KKK Act of 1871 was passed to prevent the violence and intimidation of the extremist white supremacist group in the South during the Reconstruction period from blocking members of Congress from fulfilling their constitutional duties. It was mainly passed to protect against conspiracies.
Trump is being sued in the U.S. District Court in the nation’s capital on behalf of Thompson in his personal capacity by the NAACP and the Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll law firm, which is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and they don’t have to prove criminal allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. The lawsuit claims that Trump acted outside the scope of his office in his inciting the rioters, which is very similar to the impeachment article that charged he violated his oath of office.
“If we don’t put a check on the spread of domestic terrorism, it will consume the nation and transform it to something that none of us recognize,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP. “We must, as a nation, prevent the spread of this type of boldness where [insurrectionists] will go to our U.S. Capitol and seek an act of treason.”
Trump and his lawyers, as they did during the impeachment, claimed a defense guarantee by the First Amendment and even countercharged Democratic speakers of inciting to riot with their usage of the word “fight.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments following Trump’s acquittal may be included in the lawsuit with his assertions that Trump was morally responsible for the insurrection, though he nonetheless voted for his acquittal along with all but seven of the GOP senators.