Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, asked a federal court this week to toss out a lawsuit against him brought by Rep. Eric Swalwell over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, saying his speech was protected by the First Amendment.
“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 into not engaging in the Electoral Certification,” read his federal court filing on Tuesday.
Mr. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, said his speech during a rally before the riot erupted was protected by the First Amendment. He said his remark about “trial by combat” in reference to inspecting voting machines for election fraud was “clearly hyperbolic and not literal.”
Mr. Swalwell, California Democrat, claimed in a 65-page complaint filed in March that Mr. Trump and his allies were responsible for inciting the assault and that Mr. Trump was negligent in his duties as president to prevent and stop the deadly protest.
He also named Mr. Trump and Rep. Mo Brooks, Alabama Republican, as defendants.
Mr. Brooks called the lawsuit frivolous.
“I make no apologies whatsoever for fighting for accurate and honest elections. In sum, I wear communist-sympathizer Swalwell’s scurrilous and malicious lawsuit like a badge of courage,” Mr. Brooks said in March. “Under no circumstances will Swalwell, or any other socialist, stop me from fighting for America.”
The lawsuit noted that Messrs. Trump, Giuliani and Brooks spoke to Trump supporters before the crowd broke into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress to halt the certification of the 2020 election results.
“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,” read Mr. Swalwell’s complaint.
Mr. Giuliani’s filing on Tuesday said neither Mr. Brooks nor Mr. Trump incited violence on Jan. 6, either.
“Rep. Brooks’ speech mentions nothing about violence or any march to the Capitol,” the filing read. “President Trump’s Speech does mention a march to the Capitol, but expressly provides that any protests should be peaceful.”
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta, an Obama appointee.
Mr. Swalwell, who served as an impeachment manager prosecuting Mr. Trump on charges of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol, requested monetary damages and a jury trial.
Mr. Trump ultimately was acquitted of the impeachment charge by the Senate on Feb. 13. The House had impeached him for a second time without holding hearings on Jan. 13, one week before his term came to an end.
Mr. Swalwell did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the motion to dismiss. A spokesperson for Mr. Brooks also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An attorney for Mr. Trump plans to file a response to Mr. Swalwell’s claims on Monday.
Mr. Swalwell came under scrutiny in December, with GOP lawmakers calling for him to be removed from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence following a news report that he had a friendly relationship with a Chinese spy. Mr. Swalwell has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the woman.