In March 2022, Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against everyone he could think of connected to the DOJ Russian probe, the Clinton campaign and the Steele Dossier for damages under the RICO Act. He asked for at least 24 million dollars. Like so many of his lawsuits, it was dismissed in September with scathing comments from Judge Middlebrooks. So Trump got nothing but legal bills. Plus of course, a lot of free publicity, thanks to appearances of his attorney Alina Habba with Sean Hannity on Fox News. All pretty sad.
The Judge sanctioned Trump for filing a frivolous lawsuit. But the worst was still to come. On January 19, 2023, Trump and his lawyer had to pay Clinton and the other defendants just under one million dollars for their legal expenses.
Judge Middlebrooks let Trump have it by calling it a political manifesto and a shotgun pleading. But, his harsh language came only after he allowed Trump and his attorney, Alina Habba to “cure” obvious problems with the initial filing. Trump decided to double down, and add 80 more pages of unsupported claims.
I am thinking Trump’s big legal bill will be paid for by his “Save America” PAC. So, as usual, it is his biggest fans which Donald Trump is ripping off. The judge in the case got it right, in this lawsuit should never have been filed.
The Judge made it clear there would be no third filing, as the amended complaint was not just inadequate in any respect but was inadequate in all respects. Two strikes and you’re out.
“Here, we are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose,” he wrote.
As I was completing this blog, I discovered this blog from the Democratic Underground website which really nailed it:
Every quote is accurate. I have posted the orders of Judge Middlebrooks under “Trump’s Lawsuit” and it’s best to download the opinion. Everyone can select their favorite section. Here’s one I like:
“The deliberate use of a shotgun pleading is an abusive litigation tactic which amounts to obstruction of justice.”
Further on, the Judge states:
“I find that the pleadings here were abusive litigation tactics. The Complaint and Amended Complaint were drafted to advance a political narrative; not to address legal harm caused by any Defendant.”
I guess the only last bit I could add, is that two days after this verdict, Trump withdrew the 250 million dollar lawsuit he had filed against New York Attorney General Letitia James. See links below:
ABC News, January 20, 2023: Donald Trump withdraws lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James
New York Times November 11, 2022: Judge Fines Trump Lawyers in Clinton Conspiracy Suit Tossed in September
Newsweek Sept 9, 2022, Judge Threatens Trump Lawyers With Possible Sanctions Over Clinton Lawsuit
Now the gory details
Key dates are March 24, 2022 for the initial filing, June 22, 2022, amended filing, September 8, 2022 for the Order to Dismiss and January 19, 2023 for the Order to Sanction Donald Trump and lead attorney Alina Habbab for 938,000 dollars.
“Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on March 24, 2022, alleging that “the Defendants, blinded by political ambition, orchestrated a malicious conspiracy to disseminate patently false and injurious information about Donald J. Trump and his campaign, all in the hopes of destroying his life, his political career and rigging the 2016 Presidential Election in favor of Hillary Clinton.”
Page after page, the Judge shows it is Donald Trump, not the defendants who makes incomplete unsubstantiated claims. I have posted the judge’s scathing comments of September 8, 2022 on the Pages section of the website. As I read this, I am sure the judge wanted to do exactly what Speaker Pelosi did Trump’s state of the union address – tear it up.
The Order to Dismiss on September 8, 2022 does not mince words.
“Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint is 193 pages in length, with 819 numbered paragraphs. It contains 14 counts, names 31 defendants, 10 “John Does” described as fictitious and unknown persons, and 10 “ABC Corporations” identified as fictitious and unknown entities. Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint is neither short nor plain, and it certainly does not establish that Plaintiff is entitled to any relief. More troubling, the claims presented in the Amended Complaint are not warranted under existing law.”
When the Judge noted problems with the lawsuit with unsubstantiated claims, he allowed Trump to fix it. The normal way would be to add more evidence or withdraw a particular complaint. Instead, Trump just kept piling in another baseless claim of criminality – wire fraud.
“The Amended Complaint alleges that the Defendants “engaged in a calculated scheme to defraud the news media, law enforcement, and counterintelligence officials for the purpose of proliferating a false narrative of collusion between Trump and Russia.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 577). Not only does Plaintiff lack standing to complain about an alleged scheme to defraud the news media, but his lawyers ignore the Supreme Court’s holdings that the federal wire fraud statute prohibits only deceptive schemes to deprive the victim of money or property.”
Page 4 of Order to Dismiss. So, clearly when told to “cure” the complaint, Trump went in the opposite direction, making more baseless accusations.
In 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr appointed John Durham to head up an investigation of wrong doing in the origins of the Russian probe. It was supposed to find evidence that the Russian investigation was a “Witch Hunt” but has yet to find any serious legal violations. Michael Sussman was indicted for lying to the FBI, but found not guilty by a jury trial. The Judge’s commented:
“Likewise, the Amended Complaint cites copiously to the indictment of Michael Sussmann and a substantial portion of the Amended Complaint contains its allegations. But nowhere does the Amended Complaint mention Mr. Sussmann’s acquittal.” (page 9) Note that Michael Sussman was acquitted on May 31, 2022 and the amended complaint filed on June 22, 2022. For brevity I have not included the 27 citations which reference Michael Sussman.
On page 31, the judge states:
“Perplexingly, Plaintiff appears to argue that the Defendants obstructed investigation Crossfire Hurricane by contributing to the initiation of Crossfire Hurricane. That Defendants could have obstructed a proceeding by initiating it defies logic.”
In the US, anyone can sue anyone in a civil proceedings. But a private citizen needs to sue the agency of the government, not the individual. For this reason, 8 federal employees including former FBI Director, James Comey, Senator Adam Schiff, and former FBI agent, Kevin Clinesmith were removed as defendants, and the United States was added. FBI agent Clinesmith plead guilty to altering evidence in the FBI investigation (a single email) and received a one year probation sentence. I think that’s all the criminality that John Durham has proven to date. All claims of a deep state existing in the Department of Justice has apparently alluded John Durham’s investigation.
The RICO statutes were originally passed so law enforcement could go after organized crime. Later, they were used in numerous drug and financial criminal cases. In the 65 pages on the order to dismiss, Judge Middlebrooks methodically dismembers Trump’s lawsuit, and concludes on pages 63-64:
“It is not simply that I find the Amended Complaint “inadequate in any respect”; it is inadequate in nearly every respect. Defendants presented substantively identical arguments in support of dismissal in the earlier round of briefing on Plaintiff’s original Complaint. (See DEs 52, 124, 139, 141, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 149, 157, 159, 160, 163, 165). But despite this briefing, Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint failed to cure any of the deficiencies. Instead, Plaintiff added eighty new pages of largely irrelevant allegations that did nothing to salvage the legal sufficiency of his claims. The inadequacies with Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint are not “merely issues of technical pleading,” as Plaintiff contends, but fatal substantive defects that preclude Plaintiff from proceeding under any of the theories he has presented. At its core, the problem with Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint is that Plaintiff is not attempting to seek redress for any legal harm; instead, he is seeking to flaunt a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him, and this Court is not the appropriate forum.”
A political manifesto. Wow. This is how the Order to Dismiss ends.
On January 19, 2023, the judge ruled in favor of defendants on sanctions. There were more choice words for the shotgun pleadings as he termed it. He cites other cases, which used similar strategies. The first two sentences of his order to sanctions are:
This case should never have been brought. Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim. Thirty-one individuals and entities were needlessly harmed in order to dishonestly advance a political narrative. A continuing pattern of misuse of the courts by Mr. Trump and his lawyers undermines the rule of law, portrays judges as partisans, and diverts resources from those who have suffered actual legal harm.
In his order, he delves into how the lead attorney, Alina Habba used conservative talk show hosts, NewsMax and Sean Hannity on Fox News to misrepresent the facts in the case.
The judge continues:
Here, we are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose. Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries. He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the
judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer. He knew full well the impact of his actions. See Byrne, 261 F.3d at 1121. As such, I find that sanctions should be imposed upon Mr. Trump and his lead counsel, Ms. Habba.
As correctly stated from the blogger in the Democratic Underground website, to support their conspiracy theory, they used statements obtained from Russian intelligence as follows:
[From Trump’s complaint] Ratcliff’s letter stated that Clinton and her campaign conceived the false Russia collision [sic] story to protect Clinton’s presidential bid, which was at the time, in trouble because of revelations about her illegally using a private email server to handle classified information. Ratcliff confirmed in the letter that Obama, Comey and Strzok knew about it.
[Judge’s footnote] This provocative allegation stirred my curiosity, so I looked up the Ratcliff letter. The allegation in the Amended Complaint fails to mention that the information came from a Russian intelligence analysis and that Mr. Ratcliffe commented: “The IC (intelligence community) does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.” Letter from John Ratcliff, Dir. of Nat’l Intel., to Sen. Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senate (Sept. 29, 2020) https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/press/rep/releases/chairman-graham-releases-informationfrom-dni-ratcliffe-on-fbis-handling-of-crossfire-hurricane. Mr. Trump’s lawyers saw no professional impediment or irony in relying upon Russian intelligence as the good faith basis for their allegation.
Yes. We can trust Russian intelligence as we attack at least five members of the FBI, US Senator, and a host of other prominent officials.
It is likely there are more appeals before any payment is actually made. Personally, I’d like to have seen the sanctions equal to the 24 million dollars that Trump was asking for. But our legal system doesn’t work this way.
I checked Attorney Alina Habba website. It mentions a number of important cases she has worked on. Trump v. Clinton et al, isn’t one of them.