Democratic National Committee v. Russian Federation
Democratic National Committee v. Russian Federation, et al. was a civil lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Russian Federation and other entities and individuals. The case, relating to Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, was filed on April 20, 2018. Judge John G. Koeltl presided over the case, prior to dismissing it on July 30, 2019.
|Democratic National Committee v. Russian Federation|
|United States District Court for the Southern District of New York|
|Full case name||Democratic National Committee, Plaintiff, v. The Russian Federation; General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation ("GRU"); GRU operative using the pseudonym "Guccifer 2.0"; Aras Iskenerovich Agalarov, Emin Araz Agalarov, Joseph Mifsud, Wikileaks; Julian Assange; Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; Donald J. Trump, Jr.; Paul J. Manafort, Jr.; Roger J. Stone, Jr.; Jared C. Kushner; George Papadopoulos; Richard W. Gates, III; John Does 1-10, Defendants|
|Date decided||July 30, 2019|
|Judge sitting||John G. Koeltl|
The DNC's complaint accused the Trump campaign of engaging in a racketeering enterprise in conjunction with Russia and WikiLeaks. The law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC represented the DNC.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Russian Federation; the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU); the GRU operative using the pseudonym "Guccifer 2.0"; Aras Iskenerovich Agalarov; Emin Araz Agalarov; Joseph Mifsud; WikiLeaks; Julian Assange; the Trump campaign (formally "Donald J. Trump for President, Inc."); Donald Trump, Jr.; Paul Manafort; Roger Stone; Jared Kushner; George Papadopoulos; Richard W. Gates; and unnamed defendants sued as John Does 1–10. The U.S. government has concluded that the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, was responsible for hacking into the DNC's servers in 2016 and leaking emails to WikiLeaks, which published them.
A pre-motion conference was held on September 13, 2018. On October 3, the DNC filed an amended complaint. On December 6–7, defendants Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Aras and Emin Agalarov, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, and the Trump campaign, all filed motions to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing inter alia that the plaintiff did not allege that they participated in the hacking or dissemination of the stolen information. On December 7, WikiLeaks also filed a motion to dismiss the case on other grounds, notably the First Amendment and lack of jurisdiction. The complaint was further amended on January 18, 2019, which defendants again moved to dismiss on March 4, 2019. Attorneys for WikiLekas also filed a motion to dismiss the second amended complaint on that day. Plaintiff formally opposed those motions on April 18, 2019.
The suit was dismissed with prejudice on July 30, 2019, meaning it had a substantive legal defect and could not be refiled. In his judgement, Judge John Koeltl said that although he believed the Russian government was involved in the hacking, US federal law generally prohibits suits against foreign governments. As for the various other defendants, the judge wrote that they "did not participate in any wrongdoing in obtaining the materials in the first place" and therefore had the First Amendment right to publish the information. He also said that the DNC's argument was "entirely divorced from the facts" and that even if agents of the Russian government had directly provided the hacked documents to the Trump team, it would not be criminal for the campaign itself to publish them, as long as they did not contribute to the hack. As such, Koeltl denied the defendants motion for sanctions.
The suit has been compared to the DNC's 1972 suit against Richard Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President in connection with the Watergate scandal; that suit was settled in 1974 on the day Nixon resigned from office. The DNC chose not to reveal how much the lawsuit would cost.
The group of defendants named in the DNC lawsuit overlaps with the group of people who have been investigated in connection with the probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Gates pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mueller in February 2018 and cooperated in the investigation, while Manafort has been charged and has pleaded not guilty. Aras and Emin Agalarov, who are also named as defendants in the lawsuit, are a father-and-son pair of Russian businessmen who hosted Trump's Miss Universe 2013 Pageant in Moscow and who were involved in planning a June 9 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer "at which Donald Trump Jr. had expected to be given damaging information" about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
- Alexander Burns & Michael D. Shear, Democratic Party Alleges Trump-Russia Conspiracy in New Lawsuit, New York Times (April 20, 2018).
- "Democrats file suit alleging Russia, Trump campaign, WikiLeaks conspired to interfere in 2016 campaign". CNN. April 21, 2018. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- Jurecic, Quinta. "Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign and Others". Lawfair.
- Nicole Hong & Julie Bykowicz, Democrats Sue Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks Over 2016 Election, Wall Street Journal (April 20, 2018).
- Complaint, Democratic National Committee v. Russian Federation et al.
- Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman & Ellen Nakashima, Democratic Party sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks alleging 2016 campaign conspiracy, Washington Post (April 20, 2018).
- Klasfeld, Adam (July 30, 2019). "DNC Loses Racketeering Suit Over 2016 Election Hack". Courthouse News Service.
- Re, Gregg (31 July 2019). "Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks over hacking". msn. Archived from the original on 31 July 2019. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
- Mathis-Lilley, Ben (April 20, 2018). "Democrat on Internal DNC Call About Russia Lawsuit Asks Why DNC Is Spending Money to Sue Russia". Slate.