Three private individuals whose lives were turned upside down by Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email servers last year claim in a federal complaint that President Donald Trump’s role in the conspiracy is undeniable.
Former DNC staffer Scott Comer filed the complaint with two party donors, Roy Cockrum and Eric Schoenberg, in Washington on July 12 — just under the one-year statute of limitations for privacy-invasion claims.
The evidence of collusion described in the 46-page complaint has already been widely dissected, but the plaintiffs say discovery in the case — namely, witness depositions and copies of Trump campaign emails — will bolster their position.
Should the plaintiffs go to trial, it would mean that only a federal judge – not Republican lawmakers, federal investigators or the Trump administration itself – would have the responsibility of conducting an investigation into the Russia hacks.
The intrusions began before summer of 2016, according to the complaint, when “computer hackers working on behalf of the Russian government hacked into the email systems of the DNC in the District of Columbia and obtained voluminous amounts of data, including email and other documents sent to and from thousands of individuals.”
Comer, Cockrum and Schoenberg say their private emails were among the data compromised, which also included their Social Security numbers, medical records, birth dates, home addresses and phone numbers, and banking information.
For each of the plaintiffs now, according to the complaint, their information remains “permanently available to anyone with access to the internet.”
Cockrum, a former Episcopal monk who once won a $260 million Tennessee Powerball lottery and then promptly gave away the bulk of his winnings, says several strangers have attempted in the last year to obtain credit using his name. At least one of those attempts was successful.
Each new attack on his identity forces Cockrum to begin a new round of exhaustive investigations with creditors and credit agencies. Further, “Mr. Cockrum has been chilled in the extent to which he supports and contributes to political campaigns,” the complaint says.
Schoenberg has likewise allegedly spent the last year locked in battle with credit card fraudsters. In one instance, he said, two new credit cards arrived at his home, one in his wife’s name and one in the name of an unknown woman.
Comer is the only one of the plaintiffs who worked for the DNC. The former mid-level staffer says the hacks outed his sexual orientation, which he had been keeping somewhat private.
Though Comer came out as gay in 2011 to friends and a select few members of his family, he says “he did not tell his grandparents, because he knew that they viewed homosexuality as inconsistent with their deeply held religious beliefs.”
His grandparents were not the only ones able to deduce Comer’s sexual orientation by the details from his hacked emails, however.
“Because his emails were disclosed, Mr. Comer received phone calls threatening violence, some calling him ‘faggot,’” the complaint states.
A Maryland resident, Comer says the “revelations strained relationships with family and friends and ended some of Mr. Comer’s relationships altogether.”
Trump is named as a defendant to the complaint alongside Roger Stone, the unofficial adviser to the president who has been public about his “backchannel communications” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his Twitter conversations with the hacker who claimed credit for the DNC hack Guccifer 2.0.
Comer, Cockrum and Schoenberg seek punitive damages, alleging invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy to intimidate lawful voters from giving support or advocacy to electors for president.
They are represented by Benjamin Berwick with the watchdog group United to Protect Democracy.
“Defendants and their co-conspirators knew that the hacked DNC emails were private and intended to publicly disclose the private emails,” the complaint states. “Defendants and their co-conspirators knew [and] were plainly indifferent to the fact, or consciously disregarded the foreseeable risk that the hacked DNC emails contained private facts.”
The complaint also seeks an injunction that requires Trump and Stone to “disgorge any profits they obtained through their involvement in the conspiracy, including gains from their financial relationship with Russian actors and financial benefits accruing to them from Russia’s intervention in the election.”
Stone has not immediately returned a request for comment.