BREAKING: Brief Filed in Cockrum v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. opposing Trump Campaign’s Motion to Dismiss

On November 8, 2018, Protect Democracy and the other co-counsel for the plaintiffs filed a response to the Trump Campaign’s motion to dismiss in Cockrum v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. In a potential preview of arguments that the President’s legal team might make in response to the Mueller investigation, the Trump Campaign’s motion argued that the First Amendment protects its right to conspire with Russia to disseminate emails stolen from the DNC. Today’s filing explains why that argument is wrong.

In addition, 14 former high-ranking national security officials who served under presidents of both parties — including three former CIA Directors, John Brennan, General Michael Hayden, and Michael Morrell; as well as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — filed an amicus brief (friend of the court brief) today. The brief, which was filed on behalf of neither party, describes the history of Soviet/Russian active measures, including the use of internal political actors to interfere with democratic institutions.


The Campaign’s latest argument is that it had a First Amendment right to seek campaign assistance from agents of the Russian government. This argument is a likely preview of how the Trump legal team will defend the President in response to the Mueller investigation.

The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to speak and comment on issues of public interest; it is not a license for a political campaign to cooperate with a hostile foreign power to disseminate indisputably private information — such as social security numbers — in violation of multiple federal laws as well as state privacy law.

Protect Democracy will continue to seek to ensure that our clients get the justice they deserve and that those responsible for harming them and our democracy are held accountable.


In July, Protect Democracy, along with co-counsel, filed a federal lawsuit, Cockrum v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., against the Trump Campaign on behalf of three Americans who had their private information (including social security numbers and private correspondence) published to the world in violation of federal civil-rights law and state privacy law. On October 8, the Campaign filed a motion to dismiss the case. We filed our response today.

The Campaign’s primary argument is that the First Amendment protects its right to offer policy concessions to a hostile foreign government in exchange for the disclosure of emails stolen from the DNC that contained the plaintiffs’ private information. In making that argument, the Campaign casts itself as a journalist reporting information of critical importance to the public. As we explain in our brief and elsewhere, that comparison is specious. While the First Amendment undoubtedly protects journalists who publish newsworthy information, a political campaign has no constitutional right to conspire with a hostile foreign power to disseminate the indisputably private, personal information of its opponent’s supporters.

In addition to this lawsuit, Protect Democracy has been leading broad efforts to ensure that the American people are able to understand what happened in the 2016 election and use that information to hold their elected representatives accountable. We are working with the Nobody is Above the Law coalition to protect Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation from politicized attacks and to ensure that Mueller’s findings are transparent and lead to accountability. And we recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of Benjamin Wittes, Jack Goldsmith, and Stephen Bates, that prompted the release of the Watergate Road Map, which provides a historical precedent for ensuring that the facts uncovered in Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation become public.

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