Alleging acts of “unprecedented treachery” and an “all-out assault” on democracy, the Democratic Party has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Russian government, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign.
In the lawsuit filed in a Manhattan court on Friday, the party claims top officials in the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government to hack into a Democratic Party database and hurt the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“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.
“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,” he said.
Included in the lawsuit which lists more than a dozen defendants is US President Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The suit filed Friday seeks millions of dollars in compensation to offset damage it claims the party suffered from the hacks.
As special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation into whether Trump associates abetted the Russian government, House Intelligence Committee Republicans last month said they found no evidence that Mr Trump and his affiliates colluded with Russian officials.
Nations have immunity from most US lawsuits, but the Democratic National Convention complaint argues this doesn’t apply to Russia because the alleged hack constitutes trespass on a private property.
Mr Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations, referring in a tweet this week to the “phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)”.
Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
The suit claims Russia found in the Trump campaign a “willing and active partner” in its attempt to destabilise US democracy, with Trump’s policies benefitting the Kremlin.
“The Trump campaign and its agents gleefully welcomed Russia’s help,” the suit reads, claiming Russian agents hacked into the Democrats computer system before stealing trade secrets and other private data and giving them to Julian Assange to disseminate through WikiLeaks.
According to the lawsuit, Russia’s cyberattack began just weeks after Mr Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015 and within months European intelligence agencies were reporting suspicious communication between Trump associates and Russian operatives.
Mr Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos – both listed in Friday’s lawsuit – face charges including money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements to the FBI as part of Mr Mueller’s investigation.
The Democratic Party says the cyberattack did untold damage, including sowing discord within the party ahead of the election, compromising their internal and external communication, causing a dramatic drop in donations and undermining their ability to communicate with the American public.
The lawsuit echoes a similar suit filed by the Democratic Party in 1972 against President Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal, seeking $US1 million in damages after a break-in to the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Building.
It was ultimately successful and the Nixon campaign settled for $US750,000 on the day Mr Nixon left office in 1974.
Mr Trump is yet to respond to the latest lawsuit.
Ebony Bowden contributed reporting from New York.