REGIONAL — Tri-Valley Rep. Eric Swalwell has sued former President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., former New York City Mayor Rudy Guliani and Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Ala.).
The congressman alleges that they should be held accountable for the Jan. 6 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol that forced lawmakers to flee from their chambers and hide in locked rooms as police officers spent hours holding off the angry rioters.
Swalwell — who has represented Dublin, Pleasanton, Sunol, Livermore and 11 other Alameda and Contra Costa county communities since 2012 — accuses Trump and "many others" for speaking at a morning rally near the White House and shattering the "sacrament" of a peaceful transfer of presidential power "through a campaign of lies and incendiary rhetoric which led to the sacking of the U.S. Capitol."
“Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. He was unwilling to accept defeat," the lawsuit states. "Trump lied to his followers, telling them that the certification of Joe Biden’s election was a 'coup' and that their country was being stolen from them … Out of options and out of time, the defendants called their supporters to Washington, D.C. on the day Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s win, telling them to 'Stop the Steal' and 'be wild.' Thousands came to the District in response. Some planned violence at the Capitol in advance; some were stirred to violence by the defendants’ words on that day."
The lawsuit filed March 5 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges that through force, intimidation and threats, the defendants tried to prevent Congress from carrying out the duty of certifying the presidential election that day. It further charges that they failed to stop the attack, inflicted emotional distress and acted with negligence. The lawsuit cites various statutes to support its claims, including the D.C.’s bias-related crimes law and a law used to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War.
In response to the suit, Trump spokesman Jason Miller issued a statement to the media that called Swalwell "a low-life with no credibility.” Miller also called it a disgrace that a "compromised" Swalwell sits on the House Intelligence committee, citing a recent Axios report that said a Chinese spy targeted him and other politicians. Swalwell has said he broke off all communication with the woman six years ago when he learned her true identity from intelligence officials, He has not been found to have done anything wrong.
Brooks, in a statement to AL.com last week, called Swalwell’s lawsuit "frivolous."
"Socialist Eric Swalwell’s frivolous lawsuit is a meritless ploy by a man who betrayed his country by bedding a Communist Chinese spy while serving on the Intelligence Committee that hears America’s highest classified security secrets," Brooks said. "I make no apologies whatsoever for fighting for accurate and honest elections. In sum, I wear Communist-sympathizer Swalwell’s scurrilous and malicious lawsuit like a badge of courage … Under no circumstances will Swalwell, or any other Socialist, stop me from fighting for America.”
Swalwell’s lawsuit alleges he and other officials were targeted specifically because of their political affiliation and opposition to Trump's efforts to decertify the 2020 presidential election. In a statement, Swalwell's attorneys — Washington D.C.-based law firms Caleb Andonian, KaiserDillon and Coburn & Greenbaum — said the lawsuit seeks to find Trump and the other defendants accountable for Jan. 6 in a court of law.
Swalwell's lawyer, Philip Andonian, said the lawsuit targets Trump "in his personal capacity," not in his official capacity as president. Presidential immunity concepts should not apply.
"We think what he was doing was unrelated to his official duties in office," Andonian said. "His conduct is so far outside the boundaries of what the courts would look at as ‘official.’ He violated the law."
Andonian said Trump acted "at best as 'candidate Trump.' It really is ‘candidate Trump’ who can't let things go, not as President Trump. There is no immunity for conspiring to violate civil rights or inciting violence."
Andonian said the lawsuit hopes to have a court hold Trump accountable for what happened that day because that did not occur in the Senate.
"Donald Trump is liable for inciting violence," Andonian said. "He does not get protection for that...He has to answer to those things in a court of law."
Swalwell’s suit, reiterating charges he made against Trump while serving as a House Manager during Trump's second impeachment trial, said Trump incited the crowd by telling them to "fight like hell" and "walk down Pennsylvania Avenue … to the Capitol." About 40% of the crowd, the lawsuit said, did just that.
"As a direct and foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the defendants’ express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol," the lawsuit continued. "Many participants in the attack have since revealed that they were acting on what they believed to be former President Trump’s orders in service of their country."
Swalwell's lawsuit follows a similar case filed by fellow House Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, against Trump and others allegedly responsible for the riot. Each followed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's speech saying that while Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial he could be held accountable in civil court. Although the Senate voted 57-43 to convict Trump, impeachment requires two-thirds of the senators to gain a conviction. Just as Swalwell outlined the evidence against Trump during the impeachment trial, the lawsuit goes through the events of Jan. 6.
Andonian said Swalwell is a victim, because he was impeded from doing the job he intended to do and was an individual inside a building taken over by a violent mob and subjected to trauma.
Swalwell's lawsuit seeks monetary damages.