April 20, 2018

The Democratic National Committee opened a surprise legal assault on President Trump on Friday, filing a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the organization was the victim of a conspiracy by Russian officials, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential run.

The 66-page complaint, filed in federal court in New York, uses the publicly known facts of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling to accuse Mr. Trump’s associates of illegally working with Russian intelligence agents to interfere with the outcome of the election. In the document, the committee accuses Republicans and the Russians of “an act of previously unimaginable treachery.”

The sweeping lawsuit startled Republicans in Washington as well as Democratic leaders, who were only briefed at the last minute about the D.N.C.’s plans to pursue civil litigation. Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic Party, said the committee had alerted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrats in Congress, “when we were about to file.”

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Denying any financial motivation, Mr. Perez said in an interview that the lawsuit had been taking shape for months, and recalled facing demands as early as the winter of 2017 to file suit against Mr. Trump for allegedly abetting foreign interference in an American election. He said he had instructed the committee to investigate that possibility, eventually engaging a plaintiffs’ law firm, Cohen Milstein, to assemble the complaint filed on Friday.

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