Roger Stone, the conservative political consultant known for his combative rhetoric, held nothing back in his latest missive in a legal battle over last year’s hack of Democratic National Committee emails.
In July, a high-profile legal team filed a lawsuit against Stone and President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint claimed Stone and the campaign conspired with Russia and Wikileaks to release stolen DNC emails. In a response this week, Stone’s lawyers, Grant Smith and Robert Buschel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Andrew Farkas of Washington, D.C., filed a motion to dismiss the case under the district’s anti-SLAPP statute, a law designed to protect against frivolous lawsuits.
“What the Plaintiffs have pled is exactly what the anti-SLAPP statutes are designed to protect against—a created narrative out of thin air and seek, by nothing more than unsubstantiated regurgitation of speculative news reports, to manufacture a conspiracy where there is none,” the lawyers wrote in the motion.
Trump’s campaign also filed an anti-SLAPP motion. The campaign is represented by two Jones Day lawyers, partner Michael Carvin and associate Jeffrey Baltruzak.
The plaintiffs are DNC donors Roy Cockrum and Eric Schoenberg, and former DNC staffer Scott Comer. They claim the release of their private emails via the DNC hack caused emotional stress and harm. The lawsuit was organized by the nonprofit United to Protect Democracy, formed earlier this year by a group of lawyers with experience in the Obama administration.
In the filing, Stone’s lawyers accused the plaintiffs of playing politics via the judicial system.
“This case is nothing more than a group of admittedly liberal attorneys formed after the 2016 election still smarting that their preferred candidate for president lost the election,” the motion said. “They went in search of plaintiffs in order [to] use the judicial system as a means to launch their own private investigation. The group purporting to represent these hand-picked plaintiffs is a group with a political agenda.”
In an email, a spokeswoman for United to Protect Democracy said the group is “reviewing the motions” and will respond “in due course.”
“But we are confident in our claims,” the statement said. “We stand by the strength of the suit and by the courage of the plaintiffs to stand up for their legal rights.”
SLAPP is the acronym for “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” and several states have enacted anti-SLAPP laws to protect against the chilling effect the threat of litigation can have on free speech. To succeed on an anti-SLAPP motion, defendants must show the lawsuit is based on their speech about public issues. The burden then shifts to plaintiffs to show they have a viable case.
The lawsuit against Stone notes that he said in an interview last year he had “back channel” communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Stone also said he engaged in conversations on Twitter with a hacker known as Guccifer 2.0, who claimed credit for the DNC hack. Stone later released screenshots of the messages.
In the motion, Stone claims the plaintiffs are using his protected, public speech to bring frivolous litigation.
“Plaintiffs have been affected by a storyline perpetuated by a constant barrage of media and politicians that do not want the truth to be known, they want their narrative to be true,” the motion said. “This is a conclusion searching for evidence, not evidence leading to a conclusion.”
Still, it’s unlikely an anti-SLAPP motion can succeed, because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held in 2015 that the anti-SLAPP statute cannot be used in federal court. Stone’s lawyers argued it can because it’s pleading requirements are consistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. There’s a circuit split on the issue, as both the Ninth and First Circuits have allowed such motions to proceed in federal settings.
The case is before U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle. Under the current briefing schedule, the plaintiffs’ response is due in late October.