Rep. Mo Brooks suffered a setback in a federal lawsuit against him this week when the Justice Department said the Alabama Republican was not acting within his official capacity when he spoke at the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally outside the White House.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat, sued Mr. Brooks, as well as former President Donald Trump, his former personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr., for speaking to a crowd of thousands outside the White House, encouraging them to march to the Capitol in protest of the 2020 presidential election results.
Mr. Brooks said he was acting as a member of Congress on behalf of his constituents, so the federal government should be part of the lawsuit — not him in his personal capacity.
But in a filing Tuesday, the Justice Department dismissed Mr. Brooks‘ argument, saying the lawmaker’s conduct was comparable to campaign activity, which falls outside his official duties as a member of Congress.
“The record indicates that Brooks’s appearance at the Jan. 6 rally was campaign activity, and it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections,” the Justice Department said.
A spokesperson for Mr. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Trump, his son and Mr. Giuliani have all moved to dismiss the lawsuit.
The case has been assigned to Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee.
Mr. Swalwell, who helped lead impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump during his trial over inciting the Capitol riot, sued the officials in March for emotional distress, seeking financial damages.
The California Democrat said in a 65-page lawsuit that the 45th president was responsible for inciting the assault and was negligent in his official duties as president because he didn’t prevent or stop the riot.
The lawsuit also said Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Brooks spoke alongside Mr. Trump before the Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol to halt the certification of the 2020 election results during a joint session of Congress.
“In claiming for weeks that President Biden’s victory was in fact the largest act of fraud in American history; in seeing that some of Trump’s supporters were willing to engage in violence in response to such claims; and in using highly inflammatory language in repeating the false claims of fraud at the rally before sending the crowd to the Capitol, the defendants at a minimum acted negligently,” the lawsuit states.
Mr. Swalwell, who served as an impeachment manager prosecuting Mr. Trump, has requested monetary damages and a jury trial.
Mr. Trump was acquitted of the charge of inciting an insurrection by the Senate on Feb. 13.
The House had impeached him for his part in the riot without holding hearings on Jan. 13, one week before his term came to an end.