From Russia, Without Love: The Civil Suit Against the Trump Campaign and Roger Stone

“Seeking of the truth should not only be a part of the Justice Department and part of our judicial system, but also should be…a goal of reporters today.”–John Ensign

 

The name “Donald Trump” has become synonymous with the word “Russia.” Corporate media outlets have generated vast amounts of revenue by promoting a Russia narrative centered on President Trump and various members of his administration and inner circle over the past year. And the Democratic Party, still blind to the reasons for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the November 2016 election, continue to relish in MSM’s myopic focus on the same. Consequently, both continue to exploit a situation that has thus far has proven to be no more than mere speculation about Trump’s allegedly dubious “ties” to the Russian government. Like something read in an Ian Fleming novel, “The Trump-Russia Connection” is a perilous rant without an end in sight.

With a recent lawsuit filed against Donald J. Trump for President and Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime friend and oft-feared politico, “The Trump-Russia Connection” (“T-R Connection”) has traversed from a topic that’s pervaded the realm of public opinion like a malingering virus and is now infecting the venue of our judicial system.

Notwithstanding the lack of incontrovertible evidence to substantiate the underlying premise of this litigation; specifically, the assertion that the Russians did in fact hack into our election system, the court of public opinion is a powerful judge. Hence, in absence of introducing a proverbial “smoking gun” not already disclosed in its 46-page complaint, Plaintiffs are presumably hedging their bets that both a prospective jury pool and members of the judiciary will feign ignorance to such absence of fact and alternatively rely on conjecture. Those who deny just how powerful perception and human bias can be where the law is concerned, consider the outcome of the following cases: The People v. O.J. Simpson and the recent Ninth Circuit ruling on President Trump’s travel ban executive order. Concerning the former, despite a preponderance of proof that should have led to Simpson’s conviction, he was subsequently acquitted. In the latter, several liberal-leaning federal judges dismissed statutory and case law that clearly affords the commander-in-chief executive authority in favor of expressing personal biases. Therefore, should the influence of either or both occur in this case, Defendants could be found culpable based on speculation and slant ascertained from a mainstream media that repeatedly demonstrates its disdain towards President Trump and those who support him.

The civil suit filed by United to Protect Democracy on behalf of two DNC donors and a DNC employee asserts Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ privacy and by engaging in a conspiracy with nameless others who purportedly hacked into the U.S. election system. However, the nuisance of the subject litigation notwithstanding, one might argue that it might additionally serve as a potential ruse; an inadvertent way for the government to indirectly develop a case against Defendants by using evidence and testimony derived during the discovery phase  to possibly seek criminal charges against Trump and Stone for violating federal conspiracy laws at a later time.

Rumors that the Trump administration has been colluding with Kremlin boogeymen continue to plague the Trump administration. Corporate media has millions of reasons to continue reporting on the fable that the Russians hacked into the U.S. election and “stole” votes that were otherwise intended for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton in order to thwart November’s election in favor of Trump.

But perhaps what the subject lawsuit really proves is the predacious behavior of entities such as CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post. These corporate news outlets persistently prey upon the collective imagination of an American public hungry for fodder.  Many of the stories that have been reported read like a tale of Cold War-era espionage. Mainstream media continues to promote the fictional tale of the now-President coercing Russian “bad guys” led by Vladimir Putin of having stolen democracy from the American people. The latest twist in this “plot” is the subject U.S. District court filing wherein Plaintiffs allege the Trump campaign and Stone “conspired” with Russian hackers to penetrate election servers.

The list of characters involved in this purported “conspiracy” are a colorful bunch: Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, et alia. Lest we forget to add to the list of nefarious culprits–those nameless “Russian officials” who allegedly brokered the deal. Per paragraph 10: “…Russia typically consults domestic political actors who act as Russia’s partners to decide which extracted information to publish, how to time the release of the stolen information, and how to disseminate it in a way to maximize political impact.”

The lawsuit asserts three counts against the Trump campaign and Mr. Stone. The foundation of the lawsuit is premised on the content of paragraph 184 under “Public Disclosure of Private Facts in Violation of D.C. Law”: “Defendants agreed with each other and with other parties, including Russian government officials and WikiLeaks, to publicly disclose on the Internet private email communications that were stolen, or hacked, from the DNC for the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election.”  Count II asserts that the Defendants are responsible for having intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon each of the Plaintiffs for allegedly acting in a manner that was “extreme, outrageous, and beyond the bounds of decency.” Finally, Count III purports that Defendants conspired to interfere with American voters’ civil rights. Citing a statute drafted during the Reconstruction Era to counter the Klu Klux Klan’s influence over southern voters, 42 U.S.C. Section 1985(3), otherwise known as “Section 1985,” Plaintiffs seek legal redress for Defendants’ conspiring “…for the purposes of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person…of equal privileges or immunities under the law.”

Like most novels, the lawsuit is written to captivate with details that seize the reader’s attention and pique their imagination. In this case, Russian hackers, who presumably worked at the behest of the Russian government (or were de facto agents thereof), were hired by the Trump campaign to intentionally sabotage Hillary Clinton. Plaintiffs rely on the “findings” of the U.S. Intelligence Community released in January—a report that could only conclude it was possible that the Russians might have interfered in our election—as a basis to contend, “The Russian Government [e]ngaged in a [c]ampaign to [i]nterfere in the U.S. [e]lection and [t]ilt the [o]utcome to Donald J. Trump.” Further, paragraph 76 reads: “In order to defeat Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump, hackers working on behalf of the Russian government broke into computer networks of U.S. political actors involved in the 2016 election, including the DNC and Clinton campaign.”

Paradoxically, anyone who didn’t feign ignorance and read these “hacked” DNC emails had learned that Clinton had already “stolen” the Democratic primary from Bernie Sanders. Such fact adds an ironic tone to the fictitious “storytelling” that is the Russian narrative. Yet Plaintiffs’ contend that Defendants and their co-conspirators coordinated “…a series of secret meetings” in  furtherance of the purported conspiracy. They claim that members of the Trump campaign “…exchanged at least 18 undisclosed calls and emails with Russian officials and agents between April and November 2016…” yet fail to identify the source of this information. The inference of such statements is that if true, then these calls were made solely for nefarious reasons.  Further, it suggests that any conversation or contact with a Russian official  is dubious—but only if it’s at the behest of President Trump and/or if you’re a part of his inner circle or the Trump administration.

Plaintiffs dedicate page after page attempting to elucidate how the Russian government participated in election hacking. Paragraph 102 reads: “…Russia’s practice when it engages in cyber-attacks related to an election in another country is to partner with aligned parties…” Russia, as purported co-conspirators, “…had an interest in coordinating with Defendants and their agents…” and plotted to circulate these hacked emails in order to gain leverage over the U.S. government and “…suborn individuals…to act on their behalf…” according to ex-CIA Director John Brennan.

But such “reporting”—a term I use facetiously given the parody of the T-R Connection—has significantly blurred the distinction between “fact” and “fiction” for most. The ineptitude of MSM has fostered the frenzy to compare the modern-day Russia “scandal,” which it, for all intents and purposes created, to Watergate. In this case, though, the culprits didn’t break into an office to steal information; rather, Defendants committed burglary from afar by way of deliberately tampering with electronic voting systems for the sole purpose of interfering with Plaintiffs’ (and others) civil rights. Simply put, such conspiracy was intended “to intimidate lawful voters from giving support or advocacy to electors for President.”

The dangers of such bias and speculation manifests in a situation such as this, where the juxtaposition between what’s true versus what’s false has influenced those aggrieved parties herein to cite stories published by The New York Times, The Nation and RT throughout its “factual allegations” and rely on the presumptions set forth in and circulated by these publications in hopes of establishing sufficient legal standing in which to argue their case.

Coupling this acquired information with the rhetorical use of the legalese “on information and belief,”–a legal “caveat” of sorts in which an assertion is made by a party in spite of whether evidence actually exists to confirm the contention–Plaintiffs are merely defending their reliance on hearsay and innuendo in absence of evidence as the basis for what they allege. I compare this strategy to the game of poker, wherein a player raises his or her bet, leaving the others to ponder whether the individual possesses a better hand of cards than they do. Is it a bluff? Or not?

An example of this “legal bluff strategy” used herein is when Plaintiffs, in lieu of presenting actual documentation that Trump and Stone paid the Russian government to interfere with our recent election and/or agreed to make certain concessions as means of payment for its assistance, instead posit: “Stone admitted that he had ‘backchannel communications’ with [Julian] Assange ‘through an intermediary—somebody who is a mutual friend.’”

The preceding serves as the foundation of Plaintiffs’ conclusory argument as to Stone’s involvement: “The New York Times has reported that ‘His [Stone] ties to Russia are now under scrutiny by the F.B.I.’” Although this statement might be correct, it erroneously infers that every person “under scrutiny,” a vague and ambiguous definition introduced by Plaintiffs hereto that isn’t rooted in any legal authority, by the F.B.I. is consequently found guilty of having committed a related crime. If this presumptive illogic were indeed true, then Hillary Clinton (and others) would have already been charged by the U.S. government for various crimes arising out of her deliberate use of an unsecure server and private email account during her tenure as secretary of state. Further, those nefarious acts and crimes evidenced within the context of the emails procured by the Department of Justice of grafting and collusion and obstruction of justice, as well as any instances of  individuals having suborned perjury and/or lying to the government arising therefrom, would also be actionable.

Paragraph 9 of the subject Complaint serves as a succinct synopsis of Defendants’ purported motivation:  “the Russian government sought to use the information it had stolen from the DNC as part of a deliberate campaign to interfere in the U.S. election and tilt the outcome in favor of Donald Trump.” Of course, the use of dramatic words such as “stolen” and “deliberate” evoke a visceral reaction from most readers–those individuals who’ve relied on a rabble-rouser MSM, as well as a single report drafted by the U.S. government that is nothing more than a compilation of rhetorical supposition, to conclude the Trump campaign and Stone are guilty.

Since it appears Plaintiffs are basing the merits of their case on the reporting of MSM, then it’s important to also consider information procured from media sources that present alternative theories. Perhaps the most compelling counterargument lies in examining whether a conspiracy to rig the election existed based on how Plaintiffs’ information was released. For example, paragraph 13 posits “…Defendants entered into an agreement with other parties, including agents of Russia and WikiLeaks, to have information stolen from the DNC…”  (emphasis added.) However, what if this information wasn’t stolen by a hacker? Instead, what if this personal information had been leaked by a DNC employee, someone who wished to make the public aware of certain dubious going’s-on behind the scenes at the DNC and thus sought to have this information disseminated under his or her First Amendment protected right to free speech?  Under this scenario, the cuprit(s) would be the lynchpin of any conspiracy as he or she would’ve been responsible for forwarding the emails to WikiLeaks.

But this alternative theory isn’t as riveting to readers as suing a standing President by way of his campaign, as well as his trusted confidante, for what could also be considered an act of treason under the law. Truth is, the allure of this counter-position doesn’t have the same marketability as implicating Trump and Stone as de facto criminals, even though they’re being sued in civil court.

As mentioned previously, Plaintiffs rely on the contention that Defendants entered into a conspiracy for the purpose of stealing the election from American voters. In turn, this act consequently resulted in the theft and publication of Plaintiffs’ confidential emails. Therefore, in order to prove that Defendants are guilty of conspiring to publicly disclose private facts and intimidating voters in violation of law, as well as intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon Plaintiffs as a proximate result thereof, then they had to have acted in concert with the hacker(s) responsible for stealing this information (e.g., the thief or thieves.) But if this information was in fact leaked and not stolen, then how could either Defendant be found legally responsible for any of the wrongdoing Plaintiffs allege?

If the foregoing alternative theory is true, then the culpable party responsible for “…causing Plaintiffs substantial harms” would be the publisher of this information, WikiLeaks. And yet WikiLeaks isn’t named as a Defendant. Specifically, Plaintiffs’ confirm their knowledge of WikiLeaks’ potential culpability by asserting that Roger Stone had admittedly communicated with Julian Assange via a “mutual friend.” Therefore, why is it they refuse to seek any form of legal redress from WikiLeaks?

Without question, having one’s personal information publicized without his or her permission is both egregious and illegal. But this presents the question that bothers me the most where this lawsuit is concerned: Why didn’t Plaintiffs name WikiLeaks as a co-defendant? WikiLeaks is responsible for having published this sensitive information. Therefore, why aren’t they being held accountable for tort damages? Moreover, why haven’t Plaintiffs additionally sought injunctive relief from the courts to have this information removed from the public domain? In fact, they could have requested such judicial relief months ago, right after the emails had been published. But instead, they waited until just before the one-year statute of limitations from when WikiLeaks’ disseminated this information (July 22, 2016) to file suit.

Legally speaking, the greatest challenge Plaintiffs face will be meeting their burden of connecting-the-dots between both Defendants to those unidentified persons responsible for the hacking and/or the entity responsible for publishing the information online (WikiLeaks.) Under statute, a conspiracy can only occur when two or more persons enter into an agreement to engage in an unlawful act and act in furtherance of the crime (see 18 U.S.C. 371.) While this isn’t a criminal trial for conspiracy per se, Plaintiffs’ case will require that they establish more than just a “guilty-by-association” connection between Trump’s knowledge of and agreement to any purported conspiracy being perpetrated by members of his campaign, and Stone to any person(s) within the Trump campaign allegedly responsible. While President Trump and Roger Stone might be close friends, assuming their friendship is that of itself prima facie proof of a joint agreement between both men to commit a crime would be an egregious error. Even if either or both have encountered persons who might be considered notorious, exposure to such individuals is an inherent part of the world of politics. But for Plaintiffs to infer that these men participated in what are, at minimum, shady dealings with the Russians is categorically dangerous. To claim “[public reporting from U.S. Intelligence…and other sources, establishes all of the hallmarks of a conspiracy between Defendants and other co-conspirators, including Russian actors. Each party had a motive to act together…” is thus a feeble attempt to establish a causal connection based on the mere conjecture quoted throughout the operative complaint. And such supposition might just prove to be defamatory and slanderous.

While I’m sympathetic to Plaintiffs’ predicament, what’s far worse than having your private business shared with the public-at-large is being accused of committing an illegal act based on supposition. According to paragraph 7: “On one or more occasions before the summer of 2016, computer hackers working on behalf of the Russian government hacked into the email systems of the DNC…” Problem with this assertion is that to date, no credible, conclusive evidence has been presented to confirm the same.  Further, it dismisses the undeniable cybersecurity issues that plagued the Democratic party; notably, Hillary Clinton’s notorious unsecure private server, as well as hacks into John Podesta’s Gmail accounts due to poorly managed password information.

Assuming any dispositive motions filed on Defendants’ behalves fail and the lawsuit persists, Plaintiffs’ efforts to argue the viability of their claims won’t occur without subsequent controversy. Questions such as the following will be of-interest as the case proceeds. For example, 1) isn’t it illegal to withhold evidence pertaining to what clearly involves a matter of national security? 2) how did Plaintiffs’ procure such compelling evidence that “proves” that the Russians did conspire to  manipulate our general election and were responsible for having committed the hacking? and 3) if they possess such evidence proving that the Russians are the sole source of the hack and that the Russians colluded with Trump and Stone for this purpose, why only name Trump and Stone in its operative complaint and not those culpable for the actual hacking?

It’s safe to assume mainstream media will persist in its relentless collective will to exploit “The Trump-Russia Connection.” As the lawsuit unfolds, we can expect these entities to continue acting as political and judicial pundits as opposed to seekers of truth. But as Americans, we should consider the repercussions of what’s being reported on the matter and how these mistruths will adversely affect the Defendants, win or lose.

Moreover, in spite of whether the claims being argued are meritorious and Plaintiffs can successfully prove their case against Defendants, a bigger question is whether a jury trial involving a standing President occur while he’s in office. Based on how members of the judiciary have treated President Trump thus far, it appears the follies associated the Paula Jones v. William J. Clinton case that should serve as a lesson in jurisprudence will be ignored. For the sake of the Defendants, as well as American voters, let’s hope the judicial branch experiences enough common sense to opt not to repeat the history of the recent past.

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