Trump’s attorneys argue Assange’s First Amendment right to publish
In a motion filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Dec. 29, 2017, in the case Roy Cockrum vs. Donald J. Trump for President, Trump’s attorneys argued that Julian Assange had a right under the First Amendment to publish the DNC and John Podesta emails, even if the emails were stolen.
The case was orchestrated by Project Democracy, a group run by former attorneys from the Obama administration, arguing that then former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone had conspired with the Russians to publish the DNC and Podesta emails.
In a 32-page motion defending the Trump Campaign, Michael A. Carvin of the Jones Day law firm and attorney of record representing President Trump, argued that the Trump campaign, and by inference Julian Assange at WikiLeaks, could not be held liable under the First Amendment for a disclosure of stolen information if the information published involves “a matter of public interest” and the speaker was not “involved” in the theft.
In making the argument, Trump’s attorneys relied upon Bartnicki v. Vopper. 532 U.S. 514 (2001), a labor union case in which the Supreme Court ruled a radio station had the right to broadcast a stolen tape of a phone call between the chief union negotiator for a Pennsylvania high school and the chief union negotiator together with the union president.
Technically, Assange has not yet been indicted of any criminal offense in the United States, nor is it clear if he committed any crime. Under the Supreme Court Decisions New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), and in the Pentagon Papers case, New York Times v. U.S. 403 U.S. 713 (1971), a journalist is allowed to accept and publish classified documents provided by other sources.
While Roger Stone’s case is still pending in the District of Columbia District Court, the opinion submitted by President Trump’s attorneys can be seen to have established the basis for pardoning Assange as a pre-condition of allowing Assange to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London without U.S. federal authorities seeking to arrest him.
Sweden drops charges against Assange
In May 2017, the government in Sweden dropped the rape case against Assange, ending the four-year long attempt by the Swedish government to arrest Assange via a European Arrest Warrant.
A recent decision by a United Kingdom tribunal also appears to have vitiated the arrest warrant issued by a British court in 2012, after Assange violated his bail conditions to take refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy.
On Dec. 29, 2017, Assange posted a tweet that referenced an article published by the Guardian on Dec. 14, 2017, citing a United Kingdom tribunal that declared WikiLeaks to be a media organization and a free speech advocate – designations that could carry a legal importance in placing Assange under “free speech” protections both in the UK and in the United States.
UK judgement this month on my situation EA/2017/0041 https://t.co/cRdzPZZVIh
— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) December 29, 2017