On Friday, April 20, 2018, the Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the Donald Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and the Russian government, according to The Washington Post.
The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Manhattan. It alleges that the Trump campaign worked with the Russian government, WikiLeaks, and the Russian Intelligence Unit to hack into the Democratic National Committee and released stolen materials to the public in the summer of 2016.
According to the Democratic Party, actions were taken to specifically hurt the 2016 campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton and resulted in the illegal conspiracy to “maim the party and sway that election against the Democrats.”
Additionally, the DNC Announced the Following Defendants:
- Guccifer 2.0, the critical hacker in the DNC computer break-in
- Aras Agalarov, a real-estate tycoon from Azerbaijan
- Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star, and son to Aras Agalarov
- Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who recently disappeared from the grid
- Julian Assange, the founder of WkiLeaks
- Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump campaign, charged in Russia probe
- Rick Gates, former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, plead guilty in the Russia probe
- Roger Stone, longtime Republican strategists, who is known to have had direct contact with WikiLeaks during the election
- Donald Trump Jr., was in touch with WikiLeaks during the election
- Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser
- George Papadopoulos, early-campaign foreign-policy aide, who pleaded guilty in the Russia probe
- And 10 anonymous “John Does” are listed as co-defendants.
The re-election campaign for Trump has dismissed the suit as “frivolous” and part of a “last-ditch effort to substantiate” what is called “baseless” allegations of collusion with Russia.
Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Pascale, warned of additional consequences if the lawsuit continues. He specifically said the campaign is “prepared to use the discovery process to review the inner working of the DNC, including officials’ email correspondences.”
The Watergate Comparison
According to The Washington Post the legal maneuver of the Democratic National Committee mirrors a civil action brought by Lawrence O’Brien against President Richard Nixon re-election committee in 1972. O’Brien was the chairman of the DNC, at that time. The legal suit desired $1 million in damages for the break-in at the Watergate complex DNC headquarters.
Attorney General, for Nixon, John Mitchell denounced the lawsuit, calling it “sheer demagoguery” by the DNC. Former Watergate prosecutor, who specialized in cases involving computer fraud, Nick Akerman, thought the suit had merit, and despite the predictions from Trump-allied lawyers was going to continue to investigate.
Akerman is a partner of the Dorsey & Whitney Law Firm’s New York office, and he does not believe the case will be dismissed. He believes the computer-fraud part is the heart of the case. He said, “The Democrats have every right to this suit as they are aggrieved. My question is: What took them so long?”
The Nixon campaign settled for $750,000, which was paid on the day Nixon resigned as president.
DNC Chair Tom Perez said:
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign. This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in a league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own change to win the presidency. No one is above the law and the perpetrators of this attack must be held accountable. They successfully hacked the Democratic Party in 2016 and they will be back. We must prevent future attacks on our democracy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing today. This is not partisan, it’s patriotic. If the occupant of the Oval Office won’t protect our democracy, Democrats will. It is our obligation to the American people.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is also focusing on the DNC hack and the subsequent release of the emails. This is part of his continuing investigation into the Russian interference in the election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. Collusion is a crime by itself.
Hackers and WikiLeaks
The approach Mueller is taking to the inquiry is like to be tied to two key assertions: that a conspiracy to defraud the United States occurred by attempting to interfere with the election, and that Americans had knowledge of and acted to further the conspiracy.
In 2016, Russian hacking groups, Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, infiltrated DNC servers. I September 2015, federal investigators warned the DNC that its servers had been hacked. The DNC did not take any action.
After infiltrating DNC computers, Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear released thousands of emails to Guccifer 2.0, who gave them to WikiLeaks.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Guccifer 2.0 is a front for Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks is a Russian propaganda tool.
The first batch of emails was published by WikiLeaks, on July 22, the day before the Democratic National Convention.
On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks published emails that belonged to John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager. That was after Republican strategist and long-time friend of Trump, Roger Stone tweeted in August 2016, “Trust me, it will soon the [sic] Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary.
After 60,000 of Podesta’s emails were published, leading up to election day, he said that Russian intelligence was responsible for the release of his emails.
It is known that Trump Jr. and Stone were in direct contact with WikiLeaks during the months leading up to the 2016 election and after. Trump Jr. informed campaign staffers, such as Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, that he was talking to WikiLeaks.
In March 2018, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said that there had not been any evidence that the president of his affiliate colluded with Russia to sway the election or that Russia was trying to help Trump. This conclusion was no accepted by the Democrats who serve on the committee.
Parscale believes that lawsuit has no merit and will be dismissed. He said:
This is a sham lawsuit about a bogus Russian collusion claim filed by a desperate, dysfunctional, and nearly insolvent Democratic Party. With the Democrats’ conspiracy theories against the President’s campaign evaporating as quickly as the failing DNC’s fundraising, they’ve sunk to a new low to raise money, especially among small donors who have abandoned them.
If the lawsuit is allowed to move forward, it would give the Democrats the opportunity to request documents and testimony from the Trump campaign, so they can learn more about the interactions with Russia during the presidential race.
It should also be noted that the Trump campaign would also be allowed to conduct a discovery. Parscale promised the campaign would used the discovery process to look into management decisions at the DNC. They would also investigate the Democratic Party’s involvement with commissioning the Trump dossier, which was a research document created by former British spy, Christopher Steele. He alleged that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia.
Late Friday, Trump made a similar point. The tweeted that the suit provided “good news in that he will now counter.” He wants information from the Democrats, including information for the servers about a range of topics, including Clinton’s emails.
Suing a Foreign Country
However, the lawsuit includes Russia. Suing a foreign country may pose as a problem because other nations have immunity from most U.S. lawsuits.
According to the suit, Russia is not entitled to sovereign immunity, because it trespassed onto the private servers of the DNC with the intent to “steal trade secrets and commit economic espionage.”
The Democratic Party is seeking millions of dollars in compensation to offset the damage from the attacks. The party claims that the cyberattack “undermined its ability to communicate with voters, collect donations, and effectively operate when employees were faced with personal harassment and death threats in some cases.
The suit also desires acknowledgement from the defendants that they conspired to infiltrate the Democrats’ computers, steal information, and release it to influence the presidential election.
According to the DNC, Russia engaged in a “brazen attack on U.S. soil,” a campaign that began with the hack of their computer networks in 2015 and 2016. The suit says that officials for the Trump campaign received repeated outreach from Russia.
Instead of reporting the repeated messages and communications from Russia, the Trump campaign welcomed the help from Russia in interfering with the election. Associates allegedly entered into a agreement with Russian agents to promote the candidacy of Trump through illegal means.
To support the case, the DNC included a detailed the narrative of the hacks and episodes in which key aides for the Trump campaign that are alleged to have known Russia had damaging information about Clinton.
The lawsuit does not name Trump as a defendant. It targets the aides who met with people affiliated with Russia during the campaign.
Manafort and Gates were charged with money laundering, tax evasion, and fraud. In February, Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. He is currently cooperating with the investigation. Manafort pleaded not guilty.
By Jeanette Smith
Business Insider: Democratic Party files lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia, and WikiLeaks — and it mirrors a move from the Nixon era
The Washington Post: Democratic Party sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks alleging 2016 campaign conspiracy
Image Courtesy of Kelly DeLay’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons Licnse