WASHINGTON — A group of 10 Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday joined a federal lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, claiming that they violated a 19th-century statute when they tried to prevent the certification of the presidential election Jan. 6.
Representatives Karen Bass of California, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Hank Johnson Jr. of Georgia, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, Jerrold Nadler of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Maxine Waters of California on Wednesday joined the lawsuit that originally also named the Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group, and the Oath Keepers militia group.
But since the official dissolution of the Proud Boys organization in February, the suit now names as defendants The Van Dyke Organization LLC, Warboys LLC, and Jazu Transport LLC, which it describes as successors to the Proud Boys.
The legal action accuses Trump, Giuliani, and the other groups of conspiring to incite a violent riot at the Capitol, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the election. It contends that Trump and Giuliani violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 statute that includes protections against violent conspiracies that interfere with Congress’ constitutional duties.
The NAACP originally brought the suit on behalf of Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi in February, adding to a host of legal problems that Trump is facing since leaving office. A spokesman for Trump, Jason Miller, said at the time that Trump did not “plan, produce, or organize the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse.”
Thompson and the other plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the lawsuit that was filed in US District Court in Washington, as well as injunctive relief. The dollar amounts would be determined by a jury at a trial, an NAACP spokesman said.
The lawmakers joining the suit were in the House gallery when pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol on Jan. 6. Many of the lawmakers who were in the building that day continue to suffer from the trauma of hearing gunshots and seeing broken windows and the faces of rioters on the other side of the doors, the NAACP said. That includes ongoing nightmares and difficulty sleeping.
“As I sat in my office on Jan. 6 with rioters roaming the hallways, I feared for my life and thought that I was going to die,” Cohen said in a statement, even contemplating whether he would want to be buried with his family in Memphis, Tenn., or at the Congressional Cemetery.
“This violence was anything but spontaneous,” Nadler, who sought refuge in the Judiciary Committee Office for hours, said in a statement. “It was the direct result of a conspiracy to incite a riot, instigated by President Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers.”
New York Times
Gaetz to speak at conference at Trump golf course
In the week since news broke that the Justice Department is investigating claims that Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, paid for sex with multiple women, including a 17-year-old girl, the Donald Trump ally has largely stayed out of the public eye save for an interview on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to deny the allegations.
Now, Gaetz is planning to take center stage later this week as a keynote speaker at a conservative women’s group’s conference at Trump’s Miami golf course.
Women for America First, a nonprofit organization of Trump loyalists, orchestrated and publicized a rally on Jan. 6 before the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, and also led bus tours nationwide spreading unfounded claims of election fraud.
“We know firsthand what it is like to be treated unfairly by the main stream media,” Amy Kremer, the group’s chairwoman, said in a statement to The Washington Post that defended Gaetz as “innocent until proven guilty.”
The event, called the “Save America Summit,” begins Thursday at Trump’s Doral golf resort and also includes appearances from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, all Republicans.
Gaetz’s appearance comes as he faces an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into accusations of sexual relationships with underage women in violation of sex trafficking laws. The probe began after Joel Greenberg,a former Florida tax collector now charged with stalking and sex trafficking of a minor, told investigators that Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her travel with him.
On Friday, The Washington Post reported that Gaetz repeatedly bragged to several Florida politicians about meeting women through Greenberg. The Post also reported that on multiple occasions Gaetz showed colleagues images of naked women.
Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that his family is being extorted. The FBI is separately looking into those allegations.
Meanwhile, Trump said Wednesday that Gaetz had never asked him for a pardon in a statement in which Trump also noted that Gaetz has “totally denied” accusations of a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws.
Trump’s statement came in response to a New York Times story that Gaetz privately asked the White House in the final weeks of Trump’s term for blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed.
The Times report said that aides told Trump of Gaetz’s request but that it was unclear whether Gaetz discussed the matter directly with Trump.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said in his statement Wednesday. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
The statement was notable for its limited defense of Gaetz, who emerged as a vigorous congressional ally of Trump during his term.
The Times reported that some Trump associates have speculated that Gaetz’s request for a group pardon was an attempt to camouflage his own potential criminal exposure in a Justice Department investigation into his sexual conduct. A Gaetz spokesman denied to the Times that Gaetz had privately requested a pardon in connection with the continuing Justice Department inquiry.
US to provide $235m in aid to Palestinian people
The Biden administration said Wednesday it will provide $235 million in US economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, reversing a decision by former president Donald Trump to cut almost all such funding.
The State Department had previously said it would provide $15 million in coronavirus relief aid to the Palestinians but had avoided questions about whether it would resume funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the aid includes $150 million for UNRWA, $10 million for peace building initiatives, and $75 million for development programs in Gaza and the West Bank.
The Trump administration touted its suspension of aid to UNRWA and accused the organization of exacerbating a cycle of poverty for the Palestinians while raising doubts about whether millions of Palestinians deserve to be called refugees. Blinken said the decision was in line with US interests in the region.