The chairman of the Democratic National Committee said the party’s civil lawsuit against the Trump campaign and Russia aims to deter Moscow from interfering in the 2018 midterm elections.
“We have to deter misconduct,” Tom Perez told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday. “We've got elections coming up in November. It's hard to win elections when you have interference in elections. And they've done it with impunity. And I'm concerned that it's going to happen again.”
The suit claims a wide-ranging “Russia-Trump conspiracy” and is based on the same anti-racketeering statutes that have been used against underworld criminals.
Stephanopoulos asked Perez if he is concerned that the suit might interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump associates.
The Democratic chairman responded, "No. I worked at the Justice Department for over a dozen years under Republican and Democratic administrations."
The criminal justice system, which Mueller is working within, operates separately from the civil justice side that handles lawsuits such as that filed by the DNC, Perez said.
Perez added that when he was helping to investigate police misconduct claims in the Justice Department, civil suits on the same case would "invariably" be filed. "We were always able to work out protocols so that we wouldn't interfere, the civil suit wouldn't interfere with the criminal probe."
The DNC's lawsuit seeks "justice and to expose the truth in the civil justice system because ... we have not imposed sufficient costs on Russia for what they tried to do to the election," Perez said. "We know why. This government didn't impose sufficient costs because they were conspiring with the government of Russia."
The Trump campaign in a statement Friday called the lawsuit “frivolous” and a “last-ditch effort” to validate the “baseless” claim that Trump conspired with the Kremlin.
“This is a sham lawsuit about a bogus Russian collusion claim filed by a desperate, dysfunctional, and nearly insolvent Democratic Party,” said Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager.
Perez responded, “We've done our homework."
"Over the course of the last year, we have seen story after story, brick after brick in the conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign to affect the outcome of the election,” the DNC chief said. "We have a strong case. That's why we brought it.”