Could Capitol rioters sue Trump for legal costs?

MSNBC host says Trump’s mob could sue for attorneys’ fees, lost income, and punitive damages

Nathan Place
New York
Wednesday 10 March 2021 16:31
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<p>Jacob Chansley, seen here in his horns during the Capitol riot, now blames Donald Trump for his actions</p>

Jacob Chansley, seen here in his horns during the Capitol riot, now blames Donald Trump for his actions

Multiple lawsuits are pending against Donald Trump for his role in the 6 January Capitol riot, but none have been brought by a key group: the rioters themselves. MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell thinks it’s about time.

“Who will be the first criminally charged attacker of the Capitol who turns on Donald Trump and files a lawsuit against Donald Trump, saying that Donald Trump was negligent in telling people to go to the Capitol and to fight?” Mr O’Donnell asked on his MSNBC show on Tuesday.

The host argued that Mr Trump upended many of his supporters’ lives by inducing them to attack the United States Capitol, which resulted in hundreds of them being arrested, charged with crimes, or fired from their jobs.

“There are over 300 people whose lives have been disrupted ... because of what Donald Trump told them to do,” he went on. “What they did for Donald Trump got them arrested by the FBI.”

Mr Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol, but was acquitted by the Senate. Since then, two Democratic representatives – Eric Swalwell of California and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi – have sued him in civil court.

But Mr O’Donnell argued that it’s not just members of Congress who have a case.

“Which one of them will be the first to sue Donald Trump for damages?” he wondered aloud about the rioters. “Which one of them will be the first to sue Donald Trump to pay attorneys’ fees in their criminal case? Which one of them will be the first to sue Donald Trump to pay for lost income and punitive damages for the time spent in jail?”

In a speech Mr Trump delivered in Washington, DC just before the riot, the former president told a crowd of his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight” as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them,” Mr Trump said. “We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.”

Hours later, much of his audience was attacking the Capitol.

One of the people in that mob was the so-called QAnon shaman, Jacob Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, an unemployed actor who infamously donned a pair of animal horns and face paint as he marauded through the Senate chamber. His lawyer now argues that Mr Trump “groomed” him with misleading conspiracy theories.

Mr O’Donnell wondered how far they would take that case.

“Will Jacob Chansley at some point sue Donald Trump for what happened to him that day? Will he sue Donald Trump for fraud in making him believe that the election was stolen, and he had to put on his horns and go to the Capitol and fight?”

Mr Chansley is currently in jail as he awaits his trial.

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