Ten members of Congress who were in the House gallery as rioters breached the Capitol on January 6 are adding their names to the lawsuit first filed in February against former President Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
The lawsuit, first brought by House Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson and the NAACP, accuses Trump and Giuliani of conspiring with extremist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to incite the riot at the Capitol.
The amended lawsuit now details the personal stories of each member, describing how they narrowly escaped the mob, and how some still have nightmares and anxiety months later.
“As I sat in my office on January 6th with rioters roaming the hallways, I feared for my life and thought I was going to die,” Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said in a statement. “This invasion was a direct result of Donald Trump’s rhetoric and words. His calls to gather in Washington on January 6th and his message to ‘be strong’ thwarted the functioning of our Constitution.” Cohen reveals in the lawsuit that he escaped to his office near the Capitol when the mob invaded it on January 6, sitting with the lights turned off and a baseball bat in his hand for protection for two to three hours.
The members joining the lawsuit are Cohen, Reps. Karen Bass of California, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Hank Johnson Jr. of Georgia, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, Jerry Nadler of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Maxine Waters of California.
Nadler and Waters were especially outspoken and fiery critics of Trump during his presidency. Nadler led the first House impeachment of Trump in late 2019, and, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he called for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office the day after the Capitol insurrection. Trump was ultimately acquitted in both Senate impeachment trials.
“Those responsible for placing me and my colleagues in danger must face accountability for their criminality,” Nadler said in a statement. “This violence was anything but spontaneous; it was the direct result of a conspiracy to incite a riot, instigated by President Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.”
Waters spoke out forcefully against Trump before the House impeachment vote in January, calling him “the worst President in the history of the United States.” In the lawsuit, Waters discloses that following the January 6 attack she increased the number of security personnel who travels with her to and from her California home.
The lawsuit was the first civil action filed against the former President related to the attack at the US Capitol, and it cited a scarcely used federal statute passed after the Civil War to combat violence from the Ku Klux Klan. The law allows civil actions to be brought against people who use “force, intimidation, or threat” to prevent anyone from upholding the duties of their office.
The lawsuit is backed by the NAACP, and its president, Derrick Johnson, accused the former President of inciting “a meticulously organized coup … that placed members of Congress and the integrity of our democracy in peril.”
In addition to Trump and Giuliani, the far-right extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are also named as defendants. This newly filed amended complaint additionally names as defendants the Warboys LLC, which operated in conjunction with the Proud Boys, and Enrique Tarrio, the alleged leader of the Proud Boys and Warboys.
Attorneys for Trump and Giuliani have not responded to requests for comment.
Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, previously said the former President did not incite or work to incite riots at the Capitol.
“President Trump has been acquitted in the Democrats’ latest Impeachment Witch Hunt, and the facts are irrefutable,” Miller said in a statement in February. “President Trump did not plan, produce or organize the Jan. 6th rally on the Ellipse. President Trump did not incite or conspire to incite any violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6th.”