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U.S. Declines to Defend Trump Ally in Lawsuit Over Jan. 6 Riot

U.S. Declines to Defend Trump Ally in Lawsuit Over Jan. 6 Riot
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U.S. Declines to Defend Trump Ally in Lawsuit Over Jan. 6 Riot

U.S. Declines to Defend Trump Ally in Lawsuit Over Jan. 6 Riot

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Tuesday refused to defend a Congressional ally of former President Donald J. Trump in a lawsuit accusing them both of inciting supporters to a rally in the hours leading up to the takeover assault on the Capitol on January 6.

Law enforcement officials determined that Republican Republican Mo Brooks from Alabama was acting outside of his line of duty in an inflammatory speech just before the attack, according to a court file. Mr. Brooks had asked the department to certify that he was acting as a government employee during the rally; if he had agreed to defend him, he would have been dismissed from the lawsuit and the United States would have substituted him as defendant.

“The file indicates that Brooks’ appearance at the Jan. 6 rally was campaign activity, and it is not for the United States to choose sides among the federal election candidates,” the Department of Justice wrote .

“Members of Congress are subject to a host of restrictions that carefully distinguish between their official duties, on the one hand, and their campaign duties, on the other.

The Justice Department’s ruling shows it is likely to refuse to provide legal protection to Mr Trump in the trial as well. Legal experts have followed the case closely as Biden’s Justice Department continued to fight to grant Mr. Trump immunity in a 2019 libel lawsuit where he denied allegations he had violated writer E. Jean Carroll and said she accused him of attracting attention.

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Such substitution offers broad protections to government officials and is generally reserved for government employees prosecuted for actions that arise out of their work. In the Carroll case, the department cited other libel lawsuits as precedent.

The Brooks decision also ran counter to the Justice Department’s long-held broad view of action taken in connection with the employment of a federal employee, making it more difficult to use the courts to hold cases. government employees responsible for wrongdoing.

Mr Brooks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

House attorneys also said on Tuesday that they refused to defend Mr Brooks in the trial. Since he “does not challenge any institutional action by the House,” a House lawyer wrote in a court record, “it is not appropriate for him to participate in the litigation.”

The Department of Justice and the House filed their briefs on Tuesday, a deadline set by Judge Amit P. Mehta of the District Federal Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit, filed in March by Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, accuses Mr Brooks of inciting a riot and plotting to prevent someone from holding office or performing official duties.

Mr Swalwell accused Mr Brooks, Mr Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and his former personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani of playing a key role in inciting the January 6 attack during a rally near the White House in the previous hours. the capture of the Capitol.

Quoting from excerpts from their speeches, Mr Swalwell accused the men of violating federal law by conspiring to prevent an elected official from holding office or performing official duties, arguing that their speeches led supporters of Mr. Trump that they were acting on orders to attack. Capitol.

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Mr Swalwell alleged their speeches encouraged Mr Trump’s supporters to illegally force members of Congress out of their chambers and destroy parts of Capitol Hill to prevent lawmakers from performing their duties.

During the rally, Mr. Brooks told attendees that the United States was “at risk unlike what it has been for decades, if not centuries.” He said their ancestors “sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives” for the country.

“Are you ready to do the same? He asked the crowd. “Are you ready to do whatever it takes to fight for America? “

Mr Swalwell said the defendants in his trial incited the crowd and continued to fuel false beliefs that the elections were stolen.

“As a direct and foreseeable consequence of the false and inflammatory allegations of fraud and theft by the defendants, and in direct response to the defendants’ express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol,” said Mr. Swalwell in his complaint. “Many participants in the attack have since revealed that they were acting on what they believed to be former President Trump’s orders in the service of their country.”

In June, Mr Brooks asked the Justice Department to defend him in the case. He cited the Westfall Act, which essentially replaces the Justice Department as a defendant when federal employees are prosecuted for actions deemed to be their job, according to a court document.

He described his Jan. 6 speech as part of his job, saying his duties include giving speeches, speaking out on policy and persuading lawmakers.

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The Justice Department rejected this claim.

“Inciting or plotting to instigate a violent attack on the Congress of the United States is not within the scope of the employment of a representative – or any federal employee – and therefore is not the kind of conduct for which the United States is properly substituted as a defendant under the Westfall Act, ”the department wrote. “Brooks does not claim otherwise. Instead, he denies the allegations in the complaint that he conspired to incite the attack on the Capitol. “

Mr Trump has not sought to have the government replace him as a defendant in the Westfall Law lawsuit. But he argued in court that the statements he made on January 6 were covered by broad immunity, that he could not be prosecuted for making them, and that the trial violated his freedoms rights. expression.

If a judge rejects Mr. Trump’s allegations, he could ask the Justice Department to intervene on his behalf. But his decision in Mr Brooks’ case reduced the chances of him complying.

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