U.S. judge dismisses claims that congressman incited Capitol riots

WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed civil claims against Republican Representative Mo Brooks alleging he helped incite supporters of former President Donald Trump's to attack the U.S. Capitol in January 2021, saying Brooks' speech to the crowd was constitutionally protected free speech.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta represents a setback for U.S. House of Representatives Democrats, including Eric Swalwell, who last year filed the lawsuit against Trump and his allies alleging they encouraged the crowd to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress met to formally certify Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 election victory over Trump.

Mehta in February had dismissed claims against several of Brooks' co-defendants, including former Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani and Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. But in that ruling, Mehta said he would allow the plaintiffs to continue to pursue their claims against the former president.

Trump, he determined, was not immune from the three lawsuits filed by Democratic members of Congress and two police officers over his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, because his fiery speech to supporters was not within the scope of his official presidential duties.

Trump, shortly before riots, repeated to the crowd of supporters his false claim that the 2020 election had been stolen from him through widespread voting fraud, telling them to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell" to "stop the steal."

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Leslie Adler

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