US Capitol Police officers sue Trump over January 6 riot

The suit alleges Trump incited the Capitol attack and that he conspired to prevent the certification of the presidential election.

Seven US Capitol Police officers accuse US President Donald Trump of inciting the January 6 riot in a new lawsuit [File: Jim Bourg/Reuters]

A group of seven US Capitol Police officers are suing former President Donald Trump accusing him of conspiring with far-right groups and intentionally sending a violent mob on January 6 to disrupt the congressional certification of the election.

The suit filed on Thursday in federal court in Washington, DC, alleged Trump “worked with white supremacists, violent extremist groups, and campaign supporters to violate the Ku Klux Klan Act, and commit acts of domestic terrorism in an unlawful effort to stay in power”.

The suit was filed on behalf of the seven officers, five of whom are Black, by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. It names the former president, the Trump campaign, Trump ally Roger Stone and members of the far-right groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who were present at the Capitol and in Washington on January 6.

The 71-page suit lays out in detail the officers’ arguments that Trump and his supporters conspired in the months leading up to January 6 “to prevent Congress from certifying the election results through the use of force, intimidation, and threats”.

The suit also describes racial epithets directed at the officers during the riot, as well as injuries they suffered “from being physically struck by attackers and from exposure to noxious pepper spray, bear spray, fire extinguishers, and other pollutants sprayed by attackers”.

Other similar cases have been filed in recent months by Capitol Police officers and Democratic members of Congress.

A report last week by the Reuters news agency, however, revealed that the FBI has found scant evidence that the attack was the result of an organised plot to overturn the presidential election result.

The FBI, at this point, believed the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of then-President Donald Trump, Reuters reported, according to four current and former law enforcement officials who have been either directly involved in or briefed regularly on the wide-ranging investigations.

The sources told Reuters that FBI investigators did find that cells of protesters, including followers of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys groups, had aimed to break into the Capitol. But they found no evidence that the groups had serious plans about what to do if they made it inside, the sources said.

Congressional investigation

A House committee has started to investigate in earnest what happened that day, sending out requests Wednesday for documents from intelligence, law enforcement and other government agencies. Their largest request so far was made to the National Archives for information on Trump and his former team.

The requested documents are just the beginning of what is expected to be a lengthy, partisan and rancorous investigation into how the mob was able to infiltrate the Capitol and disrupt the certification of Biden’s presidential victory, inflicting the most serious assault on Congress in two centuries.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Trump accused the committee of violating “long-standing legal principles of privilege”.

“Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of my Administration and the Patriots who worked beside me, but on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our Nation,” Trump said.

Committee members are also considering asking telecommunications companies to preserve phone records of several people, including members of Congress, to try to determine who knew what about the unfolding riot and when they knew it. With chants of “hang Mike Pence,” the rioters sent the then-vice president and members of Congress running for their lives and did more than $1m in damage, and wounded dozens of police officers.

The demands were made for White House records from the National Archives, along with material from the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security and Interior, as well as the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The committee so far has heard from police officers who were at the Capitol on January 6. In emotional testimony, those officers spoke of how afraid and frustrated they were by the failure of law enforcement leaders to foresee the potential for violence and understand the scope of planning by the Trump backers.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies