A federal judge on Thursday imposed nearly $1 million in penalties on former President Donald Trump and his attorney for filing a since-dismissed “frivolous” lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and many others who claimed they tried to rig the 2016 presidential election in their favor by slandering Trump.
“We are faced with a lawsuit that should never have been brought, that was utterly frivolous in both fact and law, and was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose,” Judge John Middlebrooks of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida wrote in its decision to sanction Trump and his attorney, Alina Habba.
Trump’s lawsuit, seeking $70 million in damages, accused Clinton and 30 other defendants of conspiring to “weave a false narrative” during the 2016 election that Trump and his campaign were colluding with Russia to win the race.
Middlebrooks noted in his order Thursday that “Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who repeatedly uses the courts to exact revenge on political opponents.”
“He is the mastermind of the strategic abuse of the legal process, and he cannot be considered a litigant blindly following the advice of an attorney,” Middlebrooks wrote.
“He knew very well the ramifications of his actions… So I think sanctions should be imposed on Mr. Trump and his lead counsel, Ms. Habba.”
Under the order, Republican Trump and Habba will be jointly and severally liable for the aggregate amount of penalties the judge imposed to cover defendants’ attorney fees and expenses: $937,989.39. That amount is about $120,000 less than what the defendants collectively requested for penalties.
Clinton received $171,631 in sanctions to be paid by Trump and Habba, with most of the money going towards Clinton’s legal fees.
That was the second-largest amount granted on behalf of Middlebrooks, which raised $179,685 for the Democratic National Committee, its former chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, and an affiliate.
“The amount of the fees awarded in this case, while reasonable, is significant,” Middlebrooks noted.
The judge in November had fined Habba and other Trump attorneys $50,000 in favor of another defendant in the lawsuit, Charles Dolan.
He called the legal briefs Habba filed “abusive litigation tactics” and said the original lawsuit and a later, 186-page, amended complaint “were written to advance the political narrative; not to address legal harm caused by a defendant.”
“The amended complaint is a hodgepodge of unrelated, often insubstantial, events followed by an implausible conclusion,” Middlebrooks wrote.
“This is a deliberate attempt to molest; to tell a story without regard to facts.”
Habba did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the order.
Trump, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, filed his lawsuit in March against Clinton, who was the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
Other defendants included the DNC, Wasserman Schultz, Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, the law firm Perkins Coie, the research firm Fusion GPS, former FBI agents James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and Christopher Steele. the former British intelligence agent who authored the infamous “Trump-Russia Dossier” opposition research report ahead of the election.
The lawsuit alleged that Clinton and other defendants falsified evidence, deceived law enforcement officials, and engaged in other tricks that “made even the events of Watergate pale in comparison.”
Middlebrooks had previously dismissed the lawsuit against Clinton and all other defendants “with prejudice,” preventing Trump from refiling the lawsuit.
Middlebrooks’ order is the latest in a series of embarrassing legal setbacks for Trump, which included the criminal conviction of his Manhattan-based real estate firm, The Trump Organization, last month in a year-long tax avoidance scheme in New York state court.
Trump and his company also face a major civil lawsuit from the New York Attorney General over an alleged plan to misstate valuations of real estate assets for financial gain, and Trump is also being sued by writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping him accuses her in New York in the mid-1990s.
A Georgia state grand jury recently completed the collection of evidence and hearing testimonies in an ongoing criminal investigation into whether Trump illegally attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 state election, which he lost.
And federal prosecutors are investigating Trump for attempting to reverse his loss in the national election to President Joe Biden and taking government documents to his Florida home when he left office.
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