United to Protect Democracy
United to Protect Democracy
July 12, 2017
Cockrum, Comer, and Schoenberg v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and Roger StoneThree Americans are suing the Trump Campaign and Roger Stone for violating their privacy and civil rights. They are seeking justice for the Trump Campaign’s role in their hacked, private information being distributed worldwide, and to make sure this never happens to anybody else.
The plaintiffs are a Reagan-era foreign service officer who grew increasingly worried about the direction of our national politics, a staffer who was making good on a lifelong dream to work in Washington, DC for causes he believed in, and a lottery winner who became a philanthropist to spend his winnings for the greater good.
As the complaint lays out, after Russian hackers stole their emails, their private information was published to the world as part of a calculated political strategy in which the Trump campaign played a central role. The result was a gross violation of their privacy in violation of District of Columbia law, with their social security numbers, medical information and details of their private lives made permanently public in ways that hurt them all deeply, as it would have any reasonable person.
Additionally, conspiring to injure Americans because of their participation in a Presidential election is a violation of federal civil rights law. No American should fear that the consequence of participating in our democracy is that their identity would be stolen or their personal, private information plastered on the Internet for all to see.
With the legal deadline for seeking justice approaching, the plaintiffs cannot wait for other law enforcement and intelligence investigations into coordination between Russia and Trump associates to run their course — they are making the difficult choice to come forward, knowing they will likely face further personal attacks. The plaintiffs want justice, they want the truth, and they want to prevent this from happening again to someone else.
Q: Who are the plaintiffs and why are they bringing this
A: The people bringing this suit are three American citizens who participated in the election by donating to a political campaign and working for a political party. Because of those actions, which are generally considered to be patriotic participation in our democracy, their private financial and personal information was stolen by Russian agents who then, as the complaint lays out, coordinated with Wikileaks and agents of the Trump Campaign to distribute it for political gain. The people who were harmed are bringing this suit before their statute of limitations runs out in order to seek justice and ensure this never happens to anyone else.
Q: What relief are plaintiffs seeking?
A: This suit seeks a remedy for the real harm suffered by the plaintiffs, caused by the coordination to release and disseminate hacked private information for political gain.
Q: What are the claims plaintiffs are bringing?
A: The principal claim is that the defendants, the Trump Campaign and its agents and associates, were involved in a conspiracy with Russia and WikiLeaks involving the public dissemination of private facts. Protection against this kind of dissemination of private facts is well-established in privacy law. The second claim is a federal civil rights claim involving conspiracy to injure citizens who have advocated on behalf of a Presidential candidate. The final claim is the intentional infliction of emotional distress, meaning that Americans’ privacy was violated intentionally or recklessly, causing the people who were harmed severe emotional distress.
Why Protect Democracy is Representing Victims of Election Hacking
By Ian Bassin, Executive Director, Protect Democracy
When we founded Protect Democracy six months ago, it was to focus on efforts that are absolutely essential to the health of our democracy itself. That interest is a nonpartisan one that should be important to all Americans. Our mission is not about taking sides on policy or political fights that are more appropriately settled at the ballot box.
Since forming, we’ve worked on protecting our core checks and balances — ensuring a separation between politics and law enforcement, supporting an independent civil service and Judiciary, and bolstering the rule of law, especially on matters of war and peace. We made a point not to simply react to the latest headlines.
It became more clear every day, however, that the ultimate check in our democracy — free and fair elections — had an open wound. That in the hacking and distribution of Americans’ private information during the 2016 election, there were real victims. We thought about the people who were not political candidates or public figures, but who were just trying to participate in their democracy at the basic level as Americans always have. And it became obvious that so long as those victims didn’t have justice, their access to our democracy would stand violated and other civic-minded Americans might be chilled from participating.
That’s why we are representing three Americans in their suit against the Trump Campaign and Roger Stone. These plaintiffs are using the law and the American civil justice system the way it was intended: to vindicate important rights and values, such as the right to privacy and the right to participate in the political process; and to deter others who might consider colluding with a foreign government for political gain. They want to ensure that what they have gone through does not become something we accept as part of our democracy. We agree, and are honored to help them pursue justice under the law.
All three of these Americans want to see the other investigations into these issues continue, but with the legal deadline approaching to pursue justice for themselves, they made the difficult decision to step forward. As we spoke to them, each of these victims expressed a sense of “duty” at various times to seek justice, even after a tumultuous year resulting from their private information being published for the world to see, and even knowing that stepping forward could bring new attacks.
They aren’t seeking publicity, nor are they trying to reverse the last election, and neither are we at Protect Democracy. We felt it was important to explain exactly why we have agreed to help them get justice, and look forward to continuing to help protect our democracy together.