D.C. sues white supremacist groups, 26 leaders for damages from Jan. 6 insurrection
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington. Both within and outside the walls of the Capitol, banners and symbols of white supremacy and racist extremism were displayed as an insurrectionist mob swarmed the U.S. Capitol. | Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

WASHINGTON—Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine is suing two white supremacist groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, plus 26 individual leaders of the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, for millions of dollars in damages the nation’s capital suffered, and continues to suffer, from their pro-Trump coup d’etat attempt.

Trump incited the insurrection weeks before the actual invasion, the suit contends. The Democratic-run House later impeached him for doing so, with 10 Republicans defying the party line and joining all the Democrats on that resolution. The evenly split Senate, also on party lines, except for Utah Republican Mitt Romney, refused to convict Trump.

Given that, one point of Racine’s suit is to recover the money, but another is to reveal the funding sources for the insurrection. It’s also to prevent such future coup tries by defunding their organizations. For that, Racine’s using the 1871 Civil Rights Act, originally designed to target the Ku Klux Klan, to uncover the data.

“By seeking justice through this civil lawsuit, we will hit the organizers, planners, and participants in their wallets and purses in order to deter and dismantle their ability to strike again,” he declared.

If successful, Racine’s “follow the money” idea could also put the white supremacist groups out of business. The Southern Poverty Law Center, around a decade ago, used the same law to recover so much in damages from a KKK branch that it was forced to declare bankruptcy and fold.

News reports and studies since the invasion reveal some of the sources of money, not for the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, but for the rally on the Ellipse on January 6, where Trump egged the participants on and told them to march on the Capitol:

  • Opensecrets.org, a non-profit group that tracks political and lobbying financing, disclosed that “In total, Trump’s ​​political operation reported paying more than $4.3 million to people and firms that organized the January 6 rally, since the start of the 2020 election.” Five of the organizers of the rally have been subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the invasion, its planning, and its aftermath.
  • CNBC reported Women for America First, the pro-Trump group which organized and obtained the federal park permits for the Ellipse rally, was funded by—among others—America First Policies, a pro-Trump “dark money” political committee which does not have to disclose its donors. It gave Women for America First $25,000.
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reported tax documents showing Trump big giver and Publix Supermarkets heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli donated $200,000 to a nonprofit—the State Tea Party Express—which also cosponsored the pre-invasion rally. The rally’s total cost was around $500,000. The donations were close in their dates.

State Tea Party Express is not named, nor are its leaders, in D.C.’s civil suit. But the House select committee probing the invasion subpoenaed a past Trump spokesperson, Taylor Budowich, to explain her solicitation of money for the Tea Party group.

The huge filing in the U.S. District Court for D.C. paints a blow-by-blow—literally and with pictures—record of the insurrection.

Brandishing Confederate flags and pro-Trump banners, the invaders stormed the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over the man whom one insurrectionist leader, in an e-mail, termed the “God-Emperor of the United States,” Donald Trump.

Some also outfitted themselves in pro-Nazi T-shirts and regalia, leading the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith, a century-old fighter against anti-Semitism, to join the D.C. suit, along with the United Democracy Center.

The suit also details the pre-insurrection planning and communications between the groups and their leaders, planning weapons stashes in Virginia, and walkie-talkie and radio communications among the invaders as they overpowered the U.S. Capitol Police and at least 850 D.C. police sent to help repel them.

In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, a Republican attorney who specializes in monitoring such extremist groups, and who opposes Trump, warned the same forces are continuing such insurrectionist planning, looking to both next year’s balloting in the states and the 2024 presidential election. He offered details of their e-mails and social media communications.

“Those who perpetrated the attack will not readily abandon their convictions,” warned ADL Executive Director Jonathan Greenblatt at Racine’s Capitol Hill press conference. “Domestic extremists, like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and others, continue to present a serious, credible, and dangerous threat to our democracy and to us all.

“This violence did not happen in a vacuum and it did not end when the crowd dispersed.”

The insurrectionists, whom Trump ordered to march on the Capitol, did not leave until he reluctantly told them to do so. They left after at least $1 million in damage occurred inside, along with incalculable damage to the future of democracy in the U.S.

Racine explained the damage to D.C. goes far beyond the Capitol itself, and beyond the $9 million which Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., the capital’s non-voting congressional delegate, won to help pay for repairs and protective measures, including high fencing, at the Capitol complex.

Three officers, from both the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department, died as a result of the insurrection: One from injuries in the attack and two others from post-traumatic depression. Almost 150 were injured and many still suffer physically, with D.C. having to pay workers’ comp for their care. Others among the 850 need mental health care, too, Racine said.

The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers had prior records of inciting violence, the suit says. In D.C., their invasion “incited terror among those inside and around the building, including members of Congress who were discharging the official duties of their offices.

“In the wake of this assault, the Capitol was left in shambles, with the District left to deal with the aftermath of the violent disruption to what should have been the peaceful transition of presidential power.

“Through this action, the District seeks to hold the defendants accountable under federal laws and the laws of the District of Columbia for the actions committed in furtherance of their conspiracy. The District seeks compensatory, statutory, and punitive relief, and, by filing this action, intends to make clear it will not countenance the use of violence against the District, including its police officers.”

Some of the details of the Trumpites’ pre-planning are chilling, especially after Trump himself issued an infamous tweet ordering followers to come to D.C. on January 6. “Will be huge!” he declared.

“President Trump’s supporters, including defendants and defendants’ affiliates,” Racine’s lawsuit says, “took to social media, amplifying President Trump’s message, interpreting the tweet as ‘marching orders’ for Defendants’ scheme to frustrate the final process in the presidential election:

  • “Well, shit. We’ve got marching orders, bois [sic].
  • “That’s a marching order if I ever heard one…
  • “THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF HAS ISSUED HIS ORDERS. JANUARY 6TH. WASHINGTON D.C.
  • “No excuses . . . GEOTUS [“God Emperor of the United States”] ISSUED US OUR MARCHING ORDERS!
  • “If you’ve been waiting for a signal, THAT’S IT.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

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