The Trump campaign, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and other prominent supporters of President Trump were exercising freedom of speech when they disseminated Democratic National Committee emails stolen by the Russian government in 2016, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Manhattan Federal Judge John Koetl wrote in his 81-page decision tossing the DNC’s lawsuit that Russia was undoubtedly the “primary wrongdoer” for the illegal hacking of its servers and the theft of tens of thousands of documents that dominated headlines during the presidential election. The DNC charged in a lawsuit filed in April of last year that the information was used in a conspiracy between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks and the Russian government to tilt the election.
Koetl wrote in his ruling that the DNC had not presented any evidence that the campaign, Trump Jr., Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and others were in on the hacking.
“In sum, the DNC does not allege any facts to show plausibly that any of the defendants, other than the Russia Federation, had any role in hacking the DNC’s computers or stealing its information…and the DNC does not dispute the documents were of public importance,” the judge ruled.
The judge, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, also ruled that U.S. law does not allow foreign governments, like Russia, to be sued for governmental actions.
“The remedies for hostile actions by foreign governments are state actions, including sanctions imposed by the executive and legislative branches of government,” he wrote.
An attorney for the DNC did not respond to a request for comment.
Koetl wrote he did not need to consider the Mueller Report, which found insufficient evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between the Russians and Trump campaign. In an ironic twist, the Trump-world figures who spread the hacked information benefited from the same protections afforded media outlets they often criticize in scathing terms.
“The First Amendment prevents such liability in the same way it would preclude liability for press outlets that publish materials of public interest despite defects in the way the materials were obtained so long as the disseminator did not participate in any wrongdoing in obtaining the materials in the first place,” Koetl wrote, citing legal precedent set by the publication of the Pentagon Papers.
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