A lawyer for the far-right Oath Keepers urged a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit filed against them by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and 10 other House members over the Capitol riot.
“There is no allegation that defendant Oath Keepers engaged in violence or entered the Capitol itself,” their lawyer said in his response to the lawsuit.
The suit, filed in February, also named former President Donald Trump, his former lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and the Proud Boys. It claimed that rioters, incited by speakers at a rally on Jan. 6, kept the House members from doing their official jobs in counting Electoral College votes following Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win over Trump.
In their response, the Oath Keepers argued that the Constitution and federal law do not specify what individual House members are to do when the electoral votes are counted. Therefore, they had no formal role or official conduct that could be the target of interference, the lawyers said.
The House of Representatives has a duty to observe the vote count, the response said, but that’s an institutional responsibility, not one belonging to individual members. And to the extent that the counting was interrupted, the Oath Keepers said, Congress has only itself to blame, because objections raised by members themselves stopped the count.
The response was filed by Kerry Lee Morgan, a lawyer in Wyandotte, Michigan, who ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for the state’s Supreme Court in 2018 and 2020.
In their lawsuit, the House members said Trump and Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers shared a common goal “of employing intimidation, harassment, and threats” to stop the January 6vote count. The riot was “a direct, intended, and foreseeable result” on the conspiracy, it said.
Their suit invoked the Civil Rights Act of 1871, commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allows lawsuits against government officials for claims that they conspired to violate civil rights.