By Eric Beech | Reuters

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department in a court filing on Tuesday declined to defend Republican congressman Mo Brooks in a lawsuit that alleges he conspired to instigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Brooks had asked the Justice Department consider him covered by the Westfall Act, which protects federal employees from being sued for actions taken as part of their jobs, in relations to the lawsuit brought by Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell.

The Justice Department said in the court filing that it had determined that Brooks’ appearance at the Jan. 6 rally – in which then-President Donald Trump exhorted his supporters to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory – was a campaign activity.

“It is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections,” the department said in the filing. “Members of Congress are subject to a host of restrictions that carefully distinguish between their official functions, on the one hand, and campaign functions, on the other,” it said.

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