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Recognizing Trump’s new anti-Clinton lawsuit for what it is

Clinging to the myth that the Russia scandal isn’t real, Donald Trump is suing dozens of people. He doesn’t seem to realize this is likely to backfire.


On the surface, it appears Donald Trump has filed another misguided lawsuit, but the closer one looks at the Republican’s case, the worse it appears. Reuters reported:

Donald Trump on Thursday sued Hillary Clinton and several other Democrats, alleging they tried to rig the 2016 U.S. presidential election by tying his campaign to Russia.... Trump, who beat Democratic nominee Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, alleges “racketeering” and a “conspiracy to commit injurious falsehood,” among other claims.

The former secretary of state isn’t alone: The former president’s case features literally dozens of defendants, each of whom, according to the Republican, “maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty.”

He’s seeking a jury trial, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. In fact, the lawsuit claims the Russia scandal has cost him more than $24 million — a total that he believes continues to grow — and he apparently wants his legal targets to pay far more than that.

There’s no shortage of problems with this, but let’s start with the obvious: It’s overly generous to perceive this lawsuit as a serious legal dispute that the former president wants to see adjudicated.

As a Washington Post analysis explained, “From the very beginning of Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and a smattering of nearly 50 others, it becomes abundantly clear what this is about — and it’s not about winning a legal judgment.... This is a press release.”

The piece added that the Republican litigation “contains a veritable smorgasbord of debunked and conspiratorial assertions,” as well as “false claims, errors and dubious inferences.”

If this dynamic seems familiar, it’s not your imagination: It was just last summer when Trump and his lawyers filed a bizarre “class-action lawsuit” against social-media companies, which proved to be little more than a vapid fundraising stunt.

Just as important is the underlying claim: Trump’s case, to the extent that it’s real, is predicated on the idea that the Russia scandal was not, and is not, real. But that’s demonstrably ridiculous.

As regular readers know, investigations from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee documented the extent to which Trump and his team welcomed, received, benefited from, and lied about Russian campaign assistance.

The evidence shows there was coordination and high-level connections between Trump’s political operation and those responsible for the attack on the U.S. election. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report at one point literally described a “direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services.”

If the former president’s lawyers haven’t seen this, the documentation is online and readily available.

But there’s also a procedural element to keep in mind: If Trump’s case moves forward, he would likely have to give testimony — answering questions under oath, for the first time, about his and his team’s interactions with their Russian benefactors — as part of the litigation.

All of which suggests the Republican’s case might backfire in ways he’s unprepared for.

Philippe Reines, a former State Department official and spokesperson for Clinton, is one of the many defendants in this case, and he hinted at what’s to come. “I look forward to deposing the plaintiff,” he wrote on Twitter yesterday.