Lawyers for the Trump campaign have argued that a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump’s campaign team of conspiring with Russians to publish stolen emails during the 2016 election should be dismissed on the grounds that disseminating those emails was an act of “free speech.”
> The lawsuit, filed last month by two donors and one former employee of the Democratic National Committee, alleges that the Trump campaign, along with former Trump adviser Roger Stone, worked with Russia and WikiLeaks to publish hacked DNC emails, thereby violating their privacy.
> But the Trump campaign—represented by Jeffrey Baltruzak, Michael A. Carvin, Nikki L. McArthur, and Vivek Suri, all of the law firm Jones Day—responded in a brief filed Tuesday that the campaign can’t be held legally responsible for WikiLeaks’s publication of the DNC emails.
> Furthermore, the Trump lawyers argued, the First Amendment protects the campaign’s “right to disclose information—even stolen information—so long as (1) the speaker did not participate in the theft and (2) the information deals with matters of public concern.”
This tack mimics the argument by Trump and his supporters regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation: even there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians in 2016, it would not constitute a crime.
> In that sense, the campaign’s legal team is taking advantage of the fact that the so-called Cockrum lawsuit—which was dismissed in July but refiled last month by the two DNC donors, Roy Cockrum and Eric Schoenberg, and the former DNC employee, Scott Comer—doesn’t accuse the campaign of actually helping the Russians hack the Democratic National Committee, which would be a crime. Rather, the plaintiffs put forth their privacy argument based on the alleged coordination among the campaign, Stone, Russia, and WikiLeaks.
> But the right to free speech, the campaign’s lawyers argued, supersedes the right to privacy. “At a minimum, privacy cannot justify suppressing true speech during a political campaign,” they wrote. Quoting from the Citizens United case, they added that the First Amendment leaves parties “‘free to obtain information from diverse sources in order to determine how to cast their votes.’ It would eviscerate that guarantee to punish true disclosures made in a political campaign.”
Speaking with The Atlantic, Ian Bassin — executive director of Protect Democracy, which represents the plaintiffs — said “seems like the technical legal version of the more political argument the Trump team has been floating, and will make in earnest, should Robert Mueller eventually find that the campaign engaged in a conspiracy like the one we allege, which seems very possible given how the indictments he’s already brought line up with the complaint in this case. We of course intend to rebut that argument in the litigation, as it’s wrong.”