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In Jan. 6 case, Justice Dept tells Mo Brooks he's on his own

Alabama's Mo Brooks said he should be immune from civil litigation in a Jan. 6 case. The Justice Department clearly disagrees.


Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) hoped the Justice Department would give him a hand in an important lawsuit surrounding his Jan. 6 conduct. As NBC News reported overnight, Main Justice apparently had other ideas.

The Justice Department handed Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a legal setback Tuesday when it notified a federal court that Brooks hadn't been acting in his official capacity when he spoke at the pro-Trump rally on Jan. 6, the day of the U.S. Capitol riot.

To briefly recap how we arrived at this point, in the wake of Donald Trump's defeat last fall, the Alabama Republican not only lied incessantly about the election having been stolen, he also vowed to spearhead the effort in Congress to contest the results.

With this in mind, on Jan. 6, the Republican congressman appeared at a radical rally near the White House, did his part to rouse a pro-Trump mob, told the audience it was time to start "kicking ass," and asked those in attendance what they were prepared to sacrifice for the good of their country.

After Brooks, Trump, and their allies rallied the right-wing crowd, the mob launched an insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol, with rioters hoping to derail the certification of an American election.

Among the lawsuits was a case filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calf.), who named a variety of defendants, including the Alabama Republican. (By some accounts, Brooks avoided being served with the paperwork for a while, but last month, the materials finally reached the controversial congressman.)

A few weeks ago, Brooks presented his first legal defense in the form a court filing, asking a federal judge to dismiss the case because -- according to the congressman -- he was acting as a federal employee, and the law shields officials from personal liability so long as they're acting within the scope of their office.

In other words, as far as the Alabama Republican was concerned, lying to an agitated mob, and allegedly helping incite a riot, was part of his official duties.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta directed the Justice Department to respond to Brooks' claims. Yesterday, the department did exactly that -- by concluding that Brooks' defense is wrong.

"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 DOJ filing read.

As NBC News' report added, the Justice Department reached the opposite conclusion last year "when it concluded that Trump acted in his official capacity in denying that he had sexual relations in a New York department store with gossip columnist E. Jean Carroll."

Of course, that was when the Justice Department was led by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, when legal and ethical standards in the department were ... let's be charitable ... different.

Had the DOJ backed Brooks' defense, the congressman would have reason to be optimistic about the fate of the ongoing litigation. The opposite has happened, suggesting the Alabaman may need a Plan B.