Trump Campaign Confronts Russia Conspiracy Claims in a DC Court

(Bloomberg) -- An attorney for Donald Trump’s campaign found a receptive audience in a Washington federal judge considering a request to throw out a lawsuit over the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers .

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle dispensed with opening arguments and immediately began questioning the lawyer representing three men who sued the president’s campaign organization over invasion of their privacy. The judge questioned whether she even had the jurisdiction to hear the case.

WikiLeaks published about 44,000 messages stolen from the DNC right before its July 2016 convention. The president’s campaign organization and adviser Roger Stone are accused of plotting with WikiLeaks and Russia to wound Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s candidacy with the release of the files.

Publication of information damaging to an opponent’s campaign, by itself, isn’t unlawful, Trump campaign’s attorney Michael Carvin told the judge. "It’s called democracy."

Among the hacked emails were messages containing the social security numbers of donors Roy Cockrum and Eric Schoenberg, as well as messages that publicly revealed that DNC finance team staffer Scott Comer is gay, a fact he’d hidden from his grandparents and other people. They filed the lawsuit.

Benjamin Berwick, one of the lawyers representing the three men, struggled to satisfy Huvelle’s apparent doubts about whether the case belongs in Washington. None of his clients live there and Trump’s campaign headquarters were in New York.

‘Big Conspiracy’

"This is a big conspiracy," Berwick said. "It evolved over time. It involved many acts."

Stone’s lawyer, Robert Buschel, argued his client isn’t alleged to have become involved until after the purloined messages were published.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, has been interviewing Stone’s associates in recent weeks. The prosecutor has also indicted three Russian businesses and 13 individuals for their alleged roles in trying to illegally influence the election outcome.

The case is Cockrum v. Donald J Trump for President, 17-cv-1370, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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