The court hearing, set to begin at 1 p.m. ET before Judge Amit Mehta of the DC District Court, will address key questions including whether Trump and Republican figures like Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama can shield themselves from legal fallout because of the First Amendment or their stature as elected officials.
It is the first major test of whether civil litigation is a viable route to holding Trump accountable for the violence toward Congress, after he was acquitted by the Senate in his second impeachment trial last February.
The lawmakers say they were threatened by Trump and others as part of a conspiracy to stop the congressional session that would certify the 2020 presidential election on January 6, according to the complaints. And they argue that Trump should bear responsibility for directing the assaults.
Swalwell, who described his position in the case in an interview on CNN on Sunday, said he expects Monday’s hearing to be long. He noted, however, that he and others will not be permitted into the courtroom because of the recent surge in Covid-19 cases. Instead, the participants will speak to the judge over videoconference.
If the judge rules in favor of Swalwell and others who have sued, the California Democrat said he expects “it’s going to speed up, and hopefully we’ll move to more depositions and evidence discovery very soon.”
The police officers, in their lawsuit, say they were hit by chemical sprays and objects the crowd threw at them, like water bottles and signs, because Trump inspired the crowd.
“Defendant’s followers, already primed by his months of inflammatory rhetoric, were spurred to direct action,” the lawsuit from Blassingame and Hemby said. “Had Trump committed directly the conduct committed by his followers, it would have subjected Trump to direct liability.”
Trump and his top advisers haven’t been charged with any crimes. Several leaders in the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who have been criminally charged with conspiracy have pleaded not guilty.
Department of Justice’s position
But Mehta hasn’t decided yet how much protection Brooks could have as a member of Congress.
The Alabama Republican is representing himself in the case brought by Swalwell — while lawyers represent all the other parties — and is expected to argue on his own behalf on Monday.
Calls for combat
The Democratic representatives’ cases specifically focus on the language Trump, Brooks and others used at the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse in Washington, DC, directly before the attack.
Trump told the crowd to “show strength” and “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” for instance, while Brooks, in his speech, said, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Also at the rally, Giuliani told the crowd to have “trial by combat.”
Following the speeches, hundreds of pro-Trump rally-goers marched to the Capitol, severely beating law enforcement officers guarding the building and breaking through barricades and windows to get inside. Many then ransacked congressional offices and some chanted “treason” as they overtook the Senate chamber, from which lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence had been evacuated minutes before.
After the Senate voted not to convict Trump last February, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pointed to lawsuits as an avenue for retribution.
The Kentucky Republican said Trump was “still liable for everything he did while he was in office” and noted “we have civil litigation” from which a president would not be immune.
The lawsuits could take months or even years to see resolutions.
CNN’s Sarah Fortinsky contributed to this report.