INDIANAPOLIS—After New York Attorney General Letitia James began to investigate the National Rifle Association (NRA), President Donald Trump tweeted on April 29 that James and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are “illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization.”
“The NRA is under siege by Cuomo and the New York State A.G.,” Trump’s tweet stated.
James has reportedly confirmed the state investigation. Her office issued subpoenas to the NRA and affiliates on April 26, telling them to preserve relevant financial records for the investigation, according to The New York Times.
The NRA is under siege by Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others. It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, & get back to GREATNESS – FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
Trump’s tweet came only two days after the NRA’s CEO, Wayne Robert LaPierre, vowed to defend free speech in the case of NRA v. New York State and Gov. Cuomo. LaPierre gave his speech at the NRA’s 2019 annual event in Indianapolis on April 27.
“The precedent we establish here [through this legal case] is going to have consequences for all of America’s free speeches,” said LaPierre. “This fight and its outcome is not going to only affect NRA; it is going to affect the rights of all groups of all kinds in every corner in this country, as to whether or not you can engage in open and free speech without the fear of political retaliation.”
The NRA has sued Cuomo and the state starting in May 2018 over claims that Cuomo acted to financially impair the association through official state actions. LaPierre said in his speech that the NRA was not even able to have checking accounts in the state of New York because Cuomo did not like the NRA’s political opinions.
Under pressure from the state government of New York, the NRA has lost several longtime business partners that provided services to the NRA before, LaPierre said.
“Simply put it in this way: the governor wants the NRA blacklisted,” he said.
The NRA has received support from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for its legal action against Cuomo.
“It is clear to Americans that Governor Cuomo went too far in his crusade against National Rifle Association,” LaPierre said. “The American Civil Liberties Union has joined right alongside the NRA in this fight, and NRA stands shoulder to shoulder with them in this fight, and I am proud to have them as a partner for free speech of America.”
The ACLU’s support for the NRA surprised many attendees at the 2019 NRA annual event who listened to LaPierre’s speech. To many conservatives who support Second Amendment rights, the ACLU has often been viewed as a leftist, progressive organization.
The ACLU’s legal director, David Cole, wrote an article last August titled “New York State Can’t Be Allowed to Stifle the NRA’s Political Speech.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the governor singling out a political adversary for criticism, or even mockery,” Cole wrote in the article.
However, he added, “In the ACLU’s view, targeting a nonprofit advocacy group and seeking to deny it financial services because it promotes a lawful activity (the use of guns) violates the First Amendment.”
LaPierre accused Cuomo of weaponizing the state’s banking regulator in order to police and silence the NRA. He said that the state agencies, under Cuomo’s direct instructions, have pressured banks and insurers to shun gun promotion organizations, especially the NRA.
LaPierre showed a screenshot of a tweet by Cuomo as evidence of Cuomo’s longtime intent to bankrupt the NRA.
“If I could have put the @NRA out of business, I would have done it 20 years ago,” Cuomo wrote in the tweet.
Another example LaPierre gave was that James, Cuomo’s “hand-chosen” candidate for New York Attorney General, called the NRA “a terrorist organization” before she was elected last year.
The NRA’s case has so far prevailed in the legal process.
According to a report by New York Law Journal last November, U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy of the Northern District of New York decided that the NRA’s claims were sufficient to be evaluated at trial. The claims were that actions by Cuomo and the State Department of Financial Services stifled the NRA’s rights to freedom of speech.
“The allegations of direct and implied threats to insurers and financial institutions because of these entities’ links with the NRA, and the allegations of resulting harm to the NRA’s operations, are sufficient to make out plausible First Amendment freedom-of-speech claims,” McAvoy wrote when he rejected part of New York State’s motion to dismiss the case in court, according to the report.
“The governor of New York has become unhinged, because restricting free speech in this country is not what we do,” LaPierre said.
LaPierre further mocked Cuomo’s actions by saying: “If the governor gets his way, the pornographers, marijuana dealers, radical charities—they will all be allowed to have banking accounts, collect donations, pay their insurers, have checking accounts [in] New York. But hey, not the NRA.”
“This case we are dealing now is perhaps the most important First Amendment case in the history of the United States of America,” LaPierre said. “The character and the identity of the National Rifle Association is going to reveal itself in front of the country in the most visible way. We are going to be seen standing there for the entire Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment and the First Amendment rights, for this whole country in the months ahead, for all of your individual liberty.”
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence went to the NRA’s annual event on April 26 and spoke to more than 7,000 attendees there.
“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Trump in his speech.