In a bombshell lawsuit, the Democratic party on Friday formally accused the Trump campaign of conspiring with the Kremlin and WikiLeaks to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
“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,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement to 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.”
The multimillion dollar lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russian government to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump, who remains under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, has vigorously denied allegations of collusion or obstruction of justice for over a year, claiming that the Russia probe is a “witch hunt” started by Democrats to explain their stunning loss in 2016.
Democrats on Friday, however, alleged that the Trump campaign was part of a broad conspiracy with the Kremlin, which U.S. intelligence officials have concluded meddled in the U.S. election in 2016.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son; Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager; and Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager are all named in the suit, according to the Post.
Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort met in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected attorney who supposedly had dirt on Clinton at Trump Tower in Manhattan, in an episode that has been of key interest to federal investigators.
Manafort has since been indicted by Mueller on numerous charges related to his work on behalf of pro-Russian interests in Ukraine; he’s pleaded not guilty to those charges. Gates, his longtime associate, cut a plea deal with Mueller in February and has been cooperating with the special counsel’s probe.
U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the Kremlin orchestrated a hack of the Democratic National Committee as part of its meddling in the election. WikiLeaks, which is considered to be aligned with Russia, published thousands of stolen DNC emails in 2016.
Trump himself applauded the organization during the campaign: “I love WikiLeaks!” he said in October 2016.
According to the Post, the DNC is seeking millions of dollars in damages. The suit also argues that Trump’s decades-long ties to Russia laid the groundwork for the alleged conspiracy.
While suing the Russian government may present challenges for the Democrats, the suit is not without precedent. As the Post noted, the DNC sued former President Richard Nixon’s campaign in 1972 over the break-in that kicked off the Watergate scandal. The DNC won that case, reaching a $750,000 settlement from the campaign in 1974 — the day Nixon left office.