A federal judge has dismissed a hacking lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee against the Trump campaign, Russia and several campaign officials over alleged email hacking during the 2016 presidential race, saying that the claims are “without merit.”
U.S. District Judge John Koeltl rejected the notion that WikiLeaks was encouraged by Trump allies and his presidential campaign to publish the stolen emails at a time when the move would benefit then-candidate Donald Trump the most.
Koeltl noted that individuals were protected by the First Amendment when taking such actions if they were not involved in the hacking, Politico writes. The DNC itself alleges in the lawsuit that only the Russian Federation had a role in the hacking and the theft of information.
“Even if the documents had been provided directly to the Campaign [and] the Campaign defendants … they could have published the documents themselves without liability because they did not participate in the theft and the documents are of public concern,” the judge states in his opinion. “The DNC cannot hold these defendants liable for aiding and abetting publication when they would have been entitled to publish the stolen documents themselves without liability.”
Koeltl further writes in his 81-page opinion that WikiLeaks as well cannot be held liable for receiving and publishing the information as it was of genuine public interest.
“The DNC’s published internal communications allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election,” Koeltl added. “This type of information is plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.”
Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the Democrats, said Tuesday that the committee was 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,” Watson noted, adding that “this should be of concern to anyone who cares about our democracy and the sanctity of our elections,” especially at a time when the President’s administration and party are choosing to ignore warnings from intelligence officials about efforts from foreign entities to interfere in the 2020 election.
Trump later said in two separate tweets that the dismissal of the suit vindicated and exonerated him “from the Russian, WikiLeaks and every other form of HOAX perpetrated by the DNC, Radical Democrats and others.”