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Judge dismisses DNC hacking suit against Trump campaign

By
Darryl Coote

July 31 (UPI) -- A U.S. federal judge dismissed a Democratic National Committee lawsuit accusing Russia, the Trump campaign, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange and others of conspiring to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, stating its arguments were "moot or without merit."

The lawsuit accused the defendants of purposely harming the DNC during the 2016 presidential campaign through the use of information Russia stole from its computers. District Judge John Koeltl in New York said in his decision that the culprit is the Russian Federation, and the Trump campaign can't be held accountable for the effect that information had on the DNC under the First Amendment.

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"The primary wrongdoer in this alleged criminal enterprise is undoubtedly the Russian Federation, the first named defendant in the case and the entity that surreptitiously and illegally hacked into the DNC's computers and thereafter disseminated the results of its theft," Koeltl said in his ruling.

However, since Russia cannot be sued in this case, the DNC pursued legal action against those who benefited from the hack, "but ... the First Amendment prevents such liability in the same way it would preclude liability for press outlets that publish materials of public interest," he said.

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The lawsuit also targeted Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Roger Stone, among a slew of others who were involved in President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Koeltl said the Trump campaign could not be held liable for the hack or the publication of the materials based on the case presented.

The DNC did not say the Trump campaign participated in Russia's hack of its systems but that meetings held between the defendants and people connected to Moscow during the time of the hack is evidence of them conspiring to disseminate the information.

"That argument is entirely divorced from the facts actually alleged in their second amended complaint," he said.

In his 81-page decision, Koeltl also cited precedent in several high-profile cases including those concerned with the Pentagon Papers, stating that if Wikileaks could be held accountable for publishing the DNC's so-called secret information, so could any newspaper or media outlet.

In a two-tweet thread Tuesday, Trump called the decision "another total and complete vindication and exoneration" against accusations of his campaign collaborating with Russia during the 2016 election.

"This is really big 'stuff' especially coming from a highly respected judge who was appointed by President [Bill] Clinton," he said. "The Witch Hunt Ends!"

The decision is another blow to the DNC, which had viewed the lawsuit that was first filed in April 2018 as a way to hold the Trump campaign accountable.

DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement that the committee was still reviewing the ruling.

"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," she said.

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