Democrats’ lawsuit against Trump, Russia and Wikileaks is a ‘victory’ regardless of outcome, expert says

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A lawsuit filed by the Democrats against President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, the Russian government, and Wikileaks “is a victory” for the party regardless of the outcome, a legal expert has said.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in [Mr] Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement on Friday morning.

Mark Zaid, a Washington DC-based attorney who has worked extensively on national security matters, told The Independent the lawsuit was an “extraordinary effort to expose alleged misconduct, lawbreaking and a direct attack upon the fundamental democratic notions that underlie the US political system”. He noted that “the mere filing of the lawsuit is a victory for the DNC, regardless of the ultimate outcome” in part because “perception alone could be devastating”. 

“It allows the DNC and its supporters to publicly attack the defendants and keep the story alive” as well as being able to use the case “for fundraising purposes.”

The country, still absorbing the comments made about the president by former FBI Director James Comey, is a mere seven months away from the November 2018 mid-term elections during which a third of the US Senate and the entire House will be on the chopping block. Mr Zaid said the timing of the lawsuit was “probably not a coincidence”.

One possible setback the DNC could face in its lawsuit deals with the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, which stipulates that foreign governments are granted immunity in the US except for a few exceptions, like an alleged wrongful act that occurred in the US. “The DNC is arguing that the act of hacking took place physically in the US even though the actors were obviously overseas.

“That is an interesting argument based on technological advancements that were not foreseen when the Act was enacted over 40 years ago,” Mr Zaid explained.

At the time the DNC was using Amazon Web Services as a server host. The company stores information in several locations around the world and it could have a connection to the lawsuit if the DNC can prove the information hacked was in a US-based server at the time.

Mr Perez said the alleged hacking “constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for president of the US, in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency”. However some Washington insiders speculated that the lawsuit may not be a top priority for the party committee.

In the wake of the hacking scandal, the DNC likely had to file an insurance claim and the terms of a pay out from the claim may have required the committee to seek damages from the other party, in this case the alleged hackers.

At that time in 2016, no one in the US government had been able or perhaps willing to name a guilty party for certain. Though the lawsuit may have been planned for some time, recent news reports may have prompted filing the lawsuit now.

News reports have surfaced regarding possible appointments and conversations between Mr Trump’s associate and Republican operative Roger Stone and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Indictments in ongoing FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and Mr Trump’s campaign team have also been issued to former chairman Paul Manafort, deputy Rick Gates, aide George Papadopoulos, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“This is a sham lawsuit about a bogus Russian collusion claim filed by a desperate, dysfunctional, and nearly insolvent Democratic Party,” said Brad Parscale, Campaign Manager of Donald J Trump for President Inc, the official name of Mr Trump’s campaign for the 2020 election.

 “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.”