Judge dismisses DNC hacking lawsuit against Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and Russia – Washington Examiner

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Democratic Party against President Trump’s campaign, which alleged a conspiracy with Russia to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign, because no one on the campaign was involved in stealing material from the Democratic National Committee.

In an 81-page opinion Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in New York said the actions by the Trump team, including specific individuals named in the lawsuit, were protected by the First Amendment.

WikiLeaks, which was also named in the lawsuit, was additionally determined to be protected by the First Amendment because the organization did not steal the documents and only disseminated material that was in the public interest. And while Koeltl said the Russian government was “undoubtedly” involved in the hacking of DNC servers, he noted federal law prohibits lawsuits against foreign governments with few exceptions that were not present in the case.

“In sum, the DNC does not allege any facts to show plausibly that any of the defendants, other than the Russian Federation, had any role in hacking the DNC’s computers or stealing its information — it attributes that conduct only to the Russian federation. And the DNC does not dispute that the documents were of public importance. Therefore, the First Amendment protects the publication of those stolen documents,” Koeltl wrote.

The decision comes after special counsel Robert Mueller completed his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which was unable to establish criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. The U.S. intelligence community has determined that Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to disseminate stolen material from Democrats, including the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

In court filings, the DNC said meetings between Trump officials and individuals alleged to be tied to Russian agents was “circumstantial evidence” of conspiracy to steal and release the documents. Individuals named in the complaint included Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, his son Donald Trump Jr., campaign manager Paul Manafort, GOP operative Roger Stone, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

But this proved insufficient. “In short, the DNC raises a number of connections and communications between the defendants and with people loosely connected to the Russian Federation, but at no point does the DNC allege any facts … to show that any of the defendants other than the Russian Federation — participated in the theft of the DNC’s information,” Koeltl said. “Nor does the DNC allege that the defendants ever agreed to help the Russian Federation steal the DNC’s documents.”

Koeltl said that although the DNC had twice resubmitted its complaint since the lawsuit was filed in the spring of 2018, “fundamental defects” remain and they had no reason to believe a fourth attempt would turn up a different result.

DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson reacted to Koeltl’s decision, saying, “At first glance, this opinion raises serious concerns about our protections from foreign election interference and the theft of private property to advance the interests of our enemies.”

She added, “At a time when the Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress are ignoring warnings from the president’s own intelligence officials about foreign interference in the 2020 election, this should be of concern to anyone who cares about our democracy and the sanctity of our elections.”

Trump celebrated the news on Twitter, emphasizing how Koeltl was a Bill Clinton appointee. He also erred in quoting Koeltl’s opinion. Trump tweeted, “The Judge said the DNC case was ‘entirely divorced’ from the facts,” but Koeltl’s statement was more narrow, referring only to the DNC’s argument that defendants other than Russia should be held liable for “aiding and abetting” the publication of the stolen documents.

In a statement reported by the Washington Post, WikiLeaks attorney Joshua Dratel said he was “very gratified with the result, which reaffirms First Amendment principles that apply to journalists across the board, whether they work for large institutions or small independent operations.”

Koeltl also denied the Trump campaign’s move for sanctions against the DNC and its attorneys.


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