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Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers are asking a federal court to make Democrats pay. Literally.
On Monday, the ex-president’s attorneys sent a new motion to the legal team representing Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson and the NAACP in a lawsuit that alleges Trump conspired to incite the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and disrupt the Electoral College vote count, according to three people familiar with the document. Trump’s attorneys contend that the plaintiffs brought a “frivolous” suit against the twice-impeached former president, and argue that a federal judge should sanction the opposing side.
In the motion, a copy of which was reviewed by The Daily Beast on Tuesday, Trump attorney Jesse Binnall argues that the lawsuit represents an attempt to “weaponize the federal court system in a political dispute” and use the courts to regulate “political speech.” As a result, Trump’s legal team says that Thompson, the 10 members of Congress who signed onto the suit, and their attorneys “should be ordered to pay President Trump’s fees and costs reasonably incurred in defending against this frivolous lawsuit and for such other sanctions as this Court finds just and reasonable.”
Binnall, Trump’s attorney for Jan. 6 riot-related lawsuits, declined to comment on this story. A spokesperson for the plaintiffs’ attorneys also declined to comment.
The motion mirrors former President Trump’s impeachment defense and argues that Trump’s rhetoric in the runup to the Jan. 6 riot amounted to constitutionally protected political speech. It further contends Democrats engaged in similar rhetorical flourishes, and that those pressing the case against Trump would be open to similar suits for their own rhetorical excesses, should the suit prevail.
Among the others supposedly open to liability, Binnall claims that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi encouraged “an insurrection by left-wing demonstrators who raided the Hart Senate Office Building on Oct. 4, 2018, to obstruct the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh.”
Capitol Police charged roughly 300 protesters with “crowding, obstructing or incommoding” during a protest against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings as demonstrators organized by the Women’s March chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho—Kavanaugh has got to go.”
No injuries were reported.
The new motion pays particular attention to Rep. Maxine Waters, a favorite target of the former president and a plaintiff in the Thompson suit. As The Daily Beast reported last week, Trump himself had recently told his advisers he wanted attacks on Waters to be heavily factored into the legal and messaging pushback against riot-related litigation.
Binnall argues that Waters “actively encouraged rioters and violence” and cites comments made by the California congresswoman that protesters need to “get more confrontational” if convicted killer Derek Chauvin was not found guilty in the murder of Floyd and a 2018 speech in which she encouraged supporters to confront Trump administration staff and tell them “they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Spokespeople for Pelosi and Waters did not respond to requests for comment. Rep. Thompson, the original plaintiff in the case, remains undeterred, according to a spokesperson.
“For reasons that we will explain in our filing in court, Mr. Trump cannot rely on the First Amendment to shield his unlawful conduct or to avoid being held accountable for it,” a Thompson spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.