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Judge tosses Democratic Party lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks

Key Points
  • A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee against President Donald Trump's presidential campaign, its leaders, Russia, WikiLeaks and others related to hacking of Democratic party computers and dissemination of electronic material stolen to help Trump's election prospects.
  • Judge John Koetl said that although the "primary wrongdoer in this alleged criminal enterprise is undoubtedly the Russian Federation," a lawsuit against that government is barred by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
  • The DNC had claimed that Russia, whose intelligence operatives in 2016 infiltrated the computers of the Democratic party and the campaign of its eventual presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, had found in the Trump campaign "a willing and active partner in its effort."
President Donald Trump hosts the "National Day of Prayer" Service in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 2, 2019.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee against President Donald Trump's presidential campaign and its leaders, Russia, WikiLeaks and others related to Russian hacking of Democratic Party computers and dissemination of electronic material stolen to help Trump's election prospects.

Judge John Koetl, in his ruling Tuesday, said that although the "primary wrongdoer in this alleged criminal enterprise is undoubtedly the Russian Federation," a lawsuit against that government is barred by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

"The Russian Federation cannot be sued in the courts of the United States for governmental actions, subject to certain limited exceptions not present in this case, just as the United States government generally cannot be sued in courts abroad for its actions," Koetl wrote in his ruling in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The ruling terminated the DNC's claims against the Trump campaign, individual members of the campaign, including the president's son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the document disclosure group WikiLeaks and its leader Julian Assange for releasing material stolen by the Russian hackers.

Koetl said the Constitution's First Amendment protects those defendants from such a civil legal claim, just as it protects "press outlets that publish materials of public interest despite defects in the way the materials were obtained, so long as the disseminator did not participate in any wrongdoing in obtaining the materials in the first place."

Koetl dismissed the lawsuit, which was filed in April 2018, "with prejudice," which bars the DNS from bringing the same claims against the defendants in another suit.

The DNC had claimed that Russia, whose intelligence operatives in 2016 infiltrated the computers of the Democratic Party and the campaign of its eventual presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, had found in the Trump campaign "a willing and active partner in its effort."

Sarah Matthews, a spokeswoman for Trump's campaign, in an email statement about Koetl's ruling, said, "Yesterday was a huge victory in court for the President who has once again been exonerated from another baseless Russian collusion allegation."

"This was a sham lawsuit filed by a desperate, dysfunctional, and nearly bankrupt Democratic Party," Matthews said. "While Democrats still can't get their heads around their poor performance in 2016, President Trump has been focusing his energy on putting America and Americans first."

Trump himself crowed about the dismissal on Twitter.

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, said, "We are still reviewing the decision. 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."

"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," Hinojosa said.