Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia over election interference

A federal judge in New York on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) alleging that the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks and the Russian government had conspired to interfere in the 2016 election.

Judge John Koeltl, a Clinton appointee, wrote in his ruling that the Trump officials were shielded from the allegations under the First Amendment. And he said that Russia could not be sued in the courts for the election interference but had to face actions such as sanctions instead.

ADVERTISEMENT

The ruling comes days after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE testified before a pair of House committees, detailing his report on Russian meddling in the 2016 race.

Trump tweeted hours after the decision that the ruling was "yet another total & complete vindication & exoneration."

"Wow! A federal Judge in the Southern District of N.Y. completely dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Committee against our historic 2016 campaign for President," Trump tweeted.

"The Judge said the DNC case was 'entirely divorced' from the facts, yet another total & complete vindication & exoneration from the Russian, WikiLeaks and every other form of HOAX perpetrated by the DNC, Radical Democrats and others. This is really big 'stuff' especially coming from a highly respected judge who was appointed by President Clinton. The Witch Hunt Ends!"

The DNC did not immediately return a request for comment.

The lawsuit also targeted former Trump aides and advisers, like George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosTrump rails against Fox News for planning interviews with Schiff, Comey How to shut down fake Republican outrage over 'spying' on Trump Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE and Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDOJ backs ex-Trump campaign aide Richard Gates's probation request Schiff says investigators seeking to identify who Giuliani spoke to on unlisted '-1' number What if impeachment fails? MORE, and other figures linked to the campaign officials.

The lawsuit had pointed to a 2016 Trump Tower meeting among Trump campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpMelania Trump's 'Be Best' hashtag trends after president goes after Greta Thunberg Trump Jr. blasts Time for choosing 'marketing gimmick' Greta Thunberg as Person of the Year White House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' MORE They highlighted a Russian attempt to hack a DNC back-up server one day after the meeting as potential evidence of coordination.

Koeltl found in his ruling that while the DNC pointed to a number of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians, it failed to provide evidence that the figures assisted in the hacking of the Democrats' servers.

He said that he is "not required to accept conclusory allegations asserted as facts."

"Those communications and that meeting took place after the Russian Federation had already hacked the DNC’s computer systems and, in any event, there is no allegation that the parties to those discussions talked about stealing the DNC’s information, or indeed about information that had been obtained from hacking the DNC’s computers or any information to be obtained from future hacking," Tuesday's opinion reads.

The judge in particular noted that it is not illegal to publish or promote stolen materials, like the documents hacked from the DNC, as long as those entities were not involved in the initial hacking.

"That the defendants might have used documents that had already been published by the Russian Federation and WikiLeaks is not an unlawful or improper use of the documents," Koeltl wrote.

The Trump campaign had also asked Koeltl to sanction the DNC for continuing to pursue the lawsuit after the release of Mueller's report earlier this year. The now-defunct special counsel's office had found that there was no sufficient evidence to charge Trump campaign officials with conspiracy in assisting the Russians in the election interference.

But the judge declined to do so, writing that the allegations in the lawsuit were not "so objectively unreasonable as to warrant the imposition of sanctions."

"Nor was it so objectively unreasonable for the DNC to pursue its lawsuit after the Mueller Report was issued that sanctions should be imposed," Koeltl wrote.

The DNC first filed its lawsuit in April 2018, and had filed two different and amended versions of the complaint since.

While Mueller has said that his report did not exonerate the president, Tuesday's ruling is sure to fuel Trump and his allies' claims that he has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Updated 7:30 p.m.