Democratic Party Alleges Trump-Russia Conspiracy in New Lawsuit

“I don’t know when Mueller will finish,” Mr. Perez said. “I’m very concerned about the run-up to the midterm elections.”

Mr. Perez firmly denied that the lawsuit had a political purpose, but he appeared to allude at points to the possibility that civil litigation might bring to light damaging information about Mr. Trump and his associates.

The complaint is largely based on information that has previously been disclosed in news reports and subsequent court proceedings. But if the lawsuit proceeds, the president and his campaign aides could be forced to disclose documents and submit to depositions that require them to answer questions under oath.

To reach the discovery stage, lawsuits have to survive any motion to dismiss the litigation by the defendants.

Mr. Perez suggested, for instance, that Mr. Trump’s tax returns would reveal “shady conduct” if they were ever made public. Asked if part of the lawsuit’s aim was to force such disclosures, Mr. Perez demurred: “I haven’t given that any thought.”

White House officials, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee did not immediately comment on the lawsuit. Roger J. Stone Jr., a former campaign adviser to Mr. Trump who is named as a defendant in the suit, dismissed it in an email as “a left-wing conspiracy theory dressed up as a lawsuit” and “a fund-raising ploy.”

In a statement forwarded by Mr. Stone, Rob Buschel, Mr. Stone’s lawyer, said he had not yet been served with the D.N.C. suit and described it as a “regurgitation” of a complaint filed last year by Democrats alleging their privacy was invaded during the campaign. That litigation is still in progress.

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“Roger Stone did not conspire, collude, or take part in any action to subvert the electoral process,” the statement said. “Sadly, these meritless lawsuits against Roger Stone will not be an effective form of therapy for loss the D.N.C. suffered in 2016.”

The Democrats’ legal maneuver comes amid a swirl of intensifying scrutiny of Mr. Trump, his associates and their interactions with Russia. The president, who has long denied allegations of collusion, has repeatedly attacked the special counsel probe this week and has vented angrily about renewed claims by James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, that Mr. Trump sought to influence the bureau’s review of the election.

Mr. Trump added Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, and two other lawyers to his legal team this week. And on Thursday night, Mr. Trump thundered on social media that there was “NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION,” and again branded the whole Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”

The Democrats’ lawsuit may agitate the president further. Their complaint is broad in its claims and stark in its language, naming a long list of defendants that includes Mr. Trump; his son, Donald Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner; the Russian government and its intelligence service; and a group of former campaign aides including Mr. Stone, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.

There is substantial overlap between the targets of the D.N.C. lawsuit and the group of people known to be under investigation by Mr. Mueller. Mr. Manafort has been indicted by the special counsel, while Mr. Gates and Mr. Papadopoulos have both pleaded guilty to different charges.

The Democrats accused Mr. Trump’s campaign of being “a racketeering enterprise” that worked with the Russians and WikiLeaks in a conspiracy that included hacking email servers at the D.N.C. and leaking damaging information to the public. The Trump campaign had extensive warnings of the Russians’ activities and intentions, the Democrats allege, embraced the meddling of a foreign power.

“Rather than report these repeated messages that Russia intended to interfere with U.S. elections, the Trump campaign and its agents gleefully welcomed Russia’s help,” the lawsuit said. “Indeed, the Trump campaign solicited Russia’s illegal assistance, and maintained secret communications with individuals tied to the Russian government, including one of the intelligence agencies responsible for attacking the D.N.C.”

The lawsuit demands monetary damages and a declaration that the defendants conspired to alter the course of the election.

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Mr. Perez said that the party had not worked on the lawsuit with Democratic leaders on the intelligence committees in the House and Senate, who are probing contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia through legislative investigations.

He also waved off a suggestion that the suit might help draw in donations to the Democratic Party. “This isn’t a fund-raising tool,” Mr. Perez said. “This is a search for justice.”

The lawsuit is not the first attempt by Democrats to use civil litigation in an effort to open another path toward investigating what happened in 2016 that could be carried out under the oversight of a judge — even if President Trump were to shut down the special counsel’s criminal investigation and the congressional oversight probes, run by Republicans, were to fall short.

Last July, two Democratic donors and a former staffer member filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit against Mr. Trump’s campaign and Mr. Stone. It also accused them of conspiring in the release of hacked Democratic emails and files that exposed their personal information to the public.

The timing of that earlier filing came just before a one-year statute of limitations for privacy invasion lawsuits was about to expire; WikiLeaks published the first archives of stolen Democratic National Committee emails on July 22, 2016.

The privacy invasion case was organized by Protect Democracy, a government watchdog group run by former Obama administration lawyers.

In a statement, Protect Democracy on Friday noted that the new D.N.C. lawsuit draws on the same set of underlying facts as the earlier privacy-invasion litigation it brought on behalf of “three Americans whose personal information was exposed through a conspiracy involving the Trump campaign and Roger Stone.” It said it only learned about the existence of the D.N.C. lawsuit from press reports on Friday.

The nine-month-old privacy invasion lawsuit is much further developed than the D.N.C. case. The judge overseeing it, Ellen S. Huvelle of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, has scheduled a May 17 hearing on the defendants’ motions to dismiss.

Charlie Savage and Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting.


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/us/politics/dnc-russia-trump-lawsuit.html

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