Democratic Party alleges conspiracy in suit naming Trump team, Russia and Wikileaks
Court action alleges campaign officials conspired with Russia to help swing 2016 election to Donald Trump
The Democratic Party filed suit against Russia, WikiLeaks and President Donald Trump's campaign on Friday, charging that they conspired to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, a court filing showed.
The party alleges in the federal lawsuit in Manhattan that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and tilt the election to Trump by hacking Democratic Party computers.
The lawsuit alleges that Republican Trump's campaign "gleefully welcomed Russia's help" in the 2016 election and accuses it of being a "racketeering enterprise" that worked in tandem with Moscow.
"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," Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Tom Perez said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post, which first reported the lawsuit.
"This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for president of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency."
Defendants in the suit include three people who have been indicted as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his associate Rick Gates and former campaign aide George Papadopoulos. Also named as defendants were Donald Trump Jr., Trump associate Roger Stone and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and an order to prevent further interference with DNC computer systems.
The lawsuit said Kushner was part of the conspiracy as a senior adviser and key decision-makers in the campaign. It said he began in June 2016 to control all campaign data-driven efforts, beginning with the establishment of a 100-person "data hub" in San Antonio, Texas, and by hiring Cambridge Analytica, the social media and analytics firm co-owned by billionaire Republican backer Robert Mercer and currently embroiled in allegations of improper data harvesting from Facebook users.
The White House didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. The president has repeatedly denied his campaign colluded with Russia, and Russia has denied meddling in the election.
The Republican National Committee, the Trump campaign, Trump campaign manager Michael Glassner, WikiLeaks, and attorneys for Trump Jr., Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Stone said the lawsuit was based on "a left-wing conspiracy theory." "NO proof or evidence," he wrote in an email to Reuters.
The lawsuit, should it go forward, seems likely to help keep the spotlight on the issue of Russian election interference and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.
It is a subject being probed by multiple congressional committees in addition to Mueller's team of prosecutors.
The House committee in particular has devolved into partisan attempts to influence public opinion, while Trump's firing of top law enforcement and justice officials James Comey and Andrew McCabe, and public scolding of others, such as Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, have raised fears among Trump opponents that the president will somehow try to scuttle or bring an end to Mueller's probe.
Four U.S. intelligence agencies reported last year that Russia sponsored the hacking of Democratic Party groups and other actions during the 2016 campaign. Part of the effort was to benefit Trump over Clinton, the agencies said.
The DNC blames Russia for breaches of its computer systems in 2015 and the first half of 2016.
Perez said the suit was being brought "because winning elections also means protecting elections."
The Democratic Party is suing the Trump campaign and Russia. Because winning elections also means protecting elections. <a href="https://t.co/9bMVqEkFdg">https://t.co/9bMVqEkFdg</a>—@TomPerez
Hackers disseminated internal communications of party officials as the Democratic nominating convention began and WikiLeaks released thousands of emails, some of which were embarrassing for the Clinton campaign and were intended to stoke conflicts among the party's supporters.
Most of the accusations from the filing appeared to be based on news reports and publicly available legal documents and offered little new information about alleged collusion with Moscow.
Through the process of legal discovery, lawyers for the Democratic Party could force the defendants to produce documents bearing on the collusion issue. The party is keen to keep the issue on the front burner in voters' minds as Democrats seek to win back control of the House, the Senate, or both, in the November midterm elections,
Democrats have accused the Trump administration of ignoring the intelligence reports and doing little in the way of shoring up vulnerabilities from potential foreign cyber intrusions in the upcoming elections.
With files from CBC News and The Associated Press