February 16, 2021
Lawsuit brought on by Bennie Thompson and NAACP argues ex-president and lawyer violated law known as Ku Klux Klan Act.
Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, have been accused of conspiring to incite the violent riot at the US Capitol, in a legal action filed under a historic law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act.
The lawsuit was brought on Tuesday by the Democratic congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and the eminent civil rights organisation the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
It comes three days after Trump was acquitted by the US Senate on a charge of inciting the 6 January insurrection, only for the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit, to point out that presidents are “not immune” to being held accountable by criminal or civil litigation.
The suit alleges that Trump, Giuliani and the extremist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers conspired to incite the attack on the Capitol with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election.
It argues that they therefore violated a law often referred to as the Ku Klux Klan Act, passed in 1871 in response to Klan violence and intimidation preventing members of Congress in the Reconstruction south from carrying out their constitutional duties. The NAACP, founded in 1909, says the statute was designed to protect against conspiracies.
Joseph Sellers, who is with the Washington law firm Cohen Milstein and filed the lawsuit on Thompson’s behalf, told the Associated Press: “Fortunately, this hasn’t been used very much. 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.”