The Slatest

Democrat on Internal DNC Call About Russia Lawsuit Asks Why DNC Is Spending Money to Sue Russia

The backdrop at the DNC's 2018 Issues Conference on Capitol Hill.
The backdrop at the DNC’s 2018 Issues Conference on Capitol Hill.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Friday, the Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit against Russia, WikiLeaks, and several figures from the Trump 2016 campaign. The suit, prepared by the law firm Cohen Milstein, seeks damages related to Russia’s hack of DNC computer systems and the Trump campaign’s alleged involvement therein. However:

• Russia and WikiLeaks are unlikely to cooperate with a U.S. civil proceeding.

• The DNC’s evidence of Trump participation in the scheme is limited to suggestive but not conclusive information that has already appeared in media reports (see footnotes 40 and onward).

• There’s already an investigation into Trump-Russia collaboration being led by the special counsel’s office—which not only has subpoena power, as the DNC conceivably could during legal discovery, but can apply for search warrants and threaten uncooperative witnesses with jail time.

The question that naturally arises, then, is … what’s the point?

On Monday afternoon, the DNC held a “top talkers” conference call to give talking points about the lawsuit to operatives and surrogates. I joined the call after being forwarded an invitation. And it turns out that some Democrats themselves had the same question I did. Here’s a question posed by one participant (who I can’t positively identify because she was only referred to by her first name):

I just mentioned this to a county chair and her response was, ‘How can we spend all that money?’ So can you address that, the financial burden that’s going to be on us?

Tough! Here’s how the DNC communications staffer leading the call responded:

Absolutely. Obviously one of the things—we are working with a really magnificent law firm that is going to litigate this case for us. And while we’re not getting into costs regarding this litigation, one thing that I will say is that this will not impact our ability to organize and our work that we do every day in order to win elections. We will still be investing in elections. …

We can walk and chew gum. We can do both, and that is what we plan on doing. So you will see us continue to organize, through our I Will Vote program, and making sure we are engaging people like we have been over the last few months, but at the same time, we can’t just let Russia come in and attempt to hack us. We need to make sure that we respond and we need to make sure that we are holding people accountable.

And we’re not just doing this for the DNC, we’re doing it for our country. And this is something that our chairman feels strongly about, the entire leadership of the DNC feels strongly about. This is not only an investment in—while we’re investing in our party and races, we’re also investing in the future of this party when it comes to protecting our democracy.

“We’re not getting into costs regarding this litigation” is not the kind of thing you say, in my opinion, when you are really confident that you are spending your donors’ money wisely during a crucial election year!