Trump ally Brooks won’t get US defense in suit over riot

Chris Strohm

The U.S. Justice Department won’t defend Republican Representative Mo Brooks in a lawsuit alleging that he helped incite the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a decision that might mean the department also won’t help protect former President Donald Trump.

Brooks, from Alabama, said he was acting in his official capacity as a lawmaker when he spoke at a rally organized by Trump before the attack on the Capitol. He was seeking to have the Justice Department substitute itself in a lawsuit against him, Trump and others. The suit was filed by Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell of California claiming Brooks engaged in a conspiracy to instigate an attack against the Capitol.

In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ark., speaks in Washington, at a rally in support of President Donald Trump called the "Save America Rally."

The Justice Department declined to intervene in a filing Tuesday, saying Brooks wasn’t acting in his official capacity as a lawmaker.

“The record indicates that Brooks’s appearance at the January 6 rally was campaign activity, and it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections,” the department said in a 24-page filing.

“Inciting or conspiring to foment a violent attack on the United States Congress is not within the scope of employment of a Representative – or any federal employee – and thus is not the sort of conduct for which the United States is properly substituted as a defendant under the Westfall Act.”

Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, sued Trump separately along with several other members of Congress. Two police officers who were injured during the riot also sued the former president. They all claim Trump’s speech at the rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol fell outside his presidential duties.