California Rep. Eric Swalwell, an impeachment manager, sues Trump over Capitol riot

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin)
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) speaks in the Senate during the second impeachment trial of President Trump on Feb. 10.
(Associated Press)

California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who served as a House manager in former President Trump’s second impeachment, filed a lawsuit Friday against Trump, his son, his lawyer and a Republican congressman whose actions Swalwell says led to January’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in Washington. It alleges a conspiracy to violate civil rights, along with negligence, inciting a riot and inflicting emotional distress. It follows a similar suit filed by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) last month in an attempt to hold Trump accountable in some way, following his impeachment trial acquittal in the Senate, for his actions Jan. 6.

Swalwell (D-Dublin) accuses Trump, his son Donald Jr., lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) of making “false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to [Trump’s] express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol.”


The lawsuit spells out in detail how both Trumps, Giuliani and Brooks spread baseless claims of election fraud, both before and after the 2020 presidential election. It charges that they helped to rile up the thousands of rioters before they stormed the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the violence, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller called Swalwell a “low-life” with “no credibility.”

“Now, after failing miserably with two impeachment hoaxes,” Swalwell is attacking “our greatest president with yet another witch hunt,” Miller said. “It’s a disgrace that a compromised member of Congress like Swalwell still sits on the House Intelligence Committee.”

The lawsuit, quoting Trump’s own words, accuses the former president of inciting the riot and follows much of the playbook Swalwell and others used during Trump’s impeachment trial — that his lies over the election results stirred supporters into the false belief the 2020 election had been stolen, that he egged on the angry mob through his rally speech and that he did nothing when faced with the images of throngs of his supporters attacking police and smashing windows at the Capitol and sending lawmakers fleeing.

“Those with knowledge claimed that during this moment of national horror, Trump was ‘delighted’ and was ‘confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was.’ Others described Trump as ‘borderline enthusiastic’ about the unfolding violence,” according to the suit.

Unlike Thompson’s lawsuit — filed against Trump, Giuliani and some far-right extremist groups whose members are alleged to have participated in the insurrection — Swalwell’s did not specify whether he was filing in his personal or official capacity, the latter of which would require additional approvals from the House and involve House attorneys.

Both lawsuits cite a federal civil rights law that was enacted to counter the Ku Klux Klan’s intimidation of officials. Swalwell’s attorney, Philip Andonian, praised Thompson’s lawsuit and said he and his boss supported it but also saw the need for this one.

In October 2016, shortly before the presidential election, Eric Swalwell was meeting with staffers to discuss his upcoming term in Congress when he suggested, half-joking, that if Donald Trump won he would run against him in 2020.

“We see ourselves as having a different angle to this, holding Trump accountable for the incitement, the disinformation,” Andonian said.

Presidents are historically afforded broad immunity from lawsuits for actions they take in their role as commander in chief. But Swalwell’s lawsuit, like the one by Thompson, was brought against Trump in his personal, not official, capacity.

Swalwell also describes in detail being trapped in the House chamber with many other members of Congress as plainclothes Capitol Police officers barricaded the doors and tried to fend off the mob at gunpoint.

“Fearing for their lives, the Plaintiff and others masked their identities as members of Congress, texted loved ones in case the worst happened, and took shelter throughout the Capitol complex,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit alleges that Brooks “conspired with the other Defendants to undermine the election results by alleging, without evidence, that the election had been rigged and by pressuring elected officials, courts, and ultimately Congress to reject the results.” It notes that he spoke at a rally supporting Trump at the Ellipse, near the White House, shortly before thousands of pro-Trump rioters made their way to the Capitol and overwhelmed police officers to shove their way inside the building.

The suit seeks unspecified damages. Swalwell also wants a court to order all of the defendants to provide written notice to him a week before they plan to have a rally in Washington that would draw more than 50 people.

“Unable to accept defeat, Donald Trump waged an all-out war on a peaceful transition of power,” Swalwell said in a statement. “He lied to his followers again and again claiming the election was stolen from them, filed a mountain of frivolous lawsuits — nearly all of which failed, tried to intimidate election officials, and finally called upon his supporters to descend on Washington, D.C., to ’stop the steal.’”