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DOJ to Mo Brooks: Sorry, Can't Help You on Jan. 6 Suit

Agency says Ala. congressman can be sued by colleague over pre-Capitol riot speech he made
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2021 7:11 AM CDT
DOJ to Mo Brooks: Sorry, Can't Help You on Jan. 6 Suit
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., speaks on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, at a rally in support of then-President Trump.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(Newser) – If Mo Brooks was hoping to wiggle out of a lawsuit brought against him by a colleague in the House of Representatives, he's not getting any help from the Justice Department. In a court filing Tuesday, the DOJ said a complaint brought by Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California against the GOP congressman from Alabama may move forward, despite Brooks asserting he was "effectively immune" from such a suit, which accuses Brooks, former President Trump, and others of inciting the US Capitol riot, per the Washington Post. "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass," Brooks said on Jan. 6 at a rally held before the attack on the Capitol began. Per CNN, Brooks' argument has been that he was speaking as a government employee at the rally, and that, because he was acting in his official capacity, his name should be swapped out as the defendant in Swalwell's suit with the Justice Department's.

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ABC News notes the immunity Brooks sought falls under a law known as the Westfall Act, which can shield federal employees from lawsuits in some cases. The DOJ disagreed Tuesday with Brooks' assertion, noting in its filing that it "cannot conclude that Brooks was acting within the scope of his office or employment as a Member of Congress at the time of the incident." The agency said that Brooks' speech was political in nature, as he was engaged in "pro-Trump electioneering" and therefore not acting in his official capacities as a congressman, CNN notes. The agency added: "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." The final decision will be left up to federal Judge Amit Mehta of DC's District Court. (Read more Mo Brooks stories.)

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