WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump and his onetime personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, urged a federal judge late Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit against them filed by Rep. Bennie Thompson and 10 other House Democrats over the Capitol riot.
The former president said he was acting in his official capacity in urging Congress not to declare Joe Biden the winner of last year’s election, that he did not incite people at the rally to violence prior to the attack on the Capitol, and that his statements at the rally were protected expression under the First Amendment. Trump’s arguments mirrored those he offered two days ago in response to a separate lawsuit over the riot filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.
Trump has absolute immunity from civil lawsuits over his official actions while in office, his lawyer said, so he was free as president to advocate for Congress to take action favorable to him in counting the electoral vote, just as he was free to push Congress to pass bills he supported.
The lawsuit from Thompson, D-Miss., and other Democrats said that by repeatedly claiming the election was stolen, Trump and Giuliani mobilized supporters and supported armed protest, rejecting pleas to cool down the rhetoric. At the rally near the White House on Jan. 6, the two “began stoking the crowd’s anger and urging them to take action to forcibly seize control of the process for counting and approving the Electoral College ballots,” the filing said
Giuliani said in his separate response that there was no basis for the contention that the attack was the result of a conspiracy, a claim his lawyer said “defies all plausibility and believability on its face. In fact, it makes all of the theories of election fraud look tame by comparison.”
As for Giuliani’s remarks at the rally calling for “trial by combat” over what he falsely claimed were fraudulent election results, his lawyer, Joseph Sibley of Austin, Texas, wrote: “No reasonable reader or listener would have perceived Giuliani’s speech as an instruction to march to the Capitol, violently breach the perimeter and enter the Capitol building, and then violently terrorize Congress.”
Rather, the attack on the Capitol was planned by others completely independent of the rally on the Ellipse, and Giuliani’s use of the phrase “trial by combat” during the rally referred to future legal challenges, not anything happening at the Capitol, Sibley said.
Trump also faces a third civil lawsuit over the Capitol riot filed by two U.S. Capitol Police officers. His response to that suit is due June 28.