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Judge sanctions Trump lawyers over frivolous anti-Clinton case

“This cannot be attributed to incompetent lawyering," a judge concluded. "It was a deliberate use of the judicial system to pursue a political agenda."


Donald Trump and his lawyers have suffered quite a few defeats of late, and as CNBC reported yesterday, their latest setback will hit their wallets.

A federal judge Thursday sanctioned attorneys for former President Donald Trump to pay $50,000 as penalty for advancing a “frivolous” lawsuit against a raft of Trump’s political enemies, including Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Judge Donald Middlebrooks’ scathing order in Florida federal court suggested Trump’s lawyers had undermined the rule of law by pushing a political narrative in court “without factual basis or any cognizable legal theory.”

In case anyone needs a refresher as to how we arrived at this point — keeping track of Team Trump’s legal troubles is admittedly challenging — let’s circle back to our recent coverage of this case.

It was in March when Trump had the bright idea of suing Clinton and several other Democrats, alleging they tried to rig the 2016 presidential election by bringing attention to his Russia scandal. The case, believe it or not, alleged “racketeering” and a “conspiracy to commit injurious falsehood,” among other things.

By any fair measure, the lawsuit was utterly bonkers, though some on Fox News encouraged its viewers to take the matter quite seriously. The suit certainly had a serious goal: Trump claimed the Russia scandal cost him more than $24 million — and he wanted his legal targets to pay far more than that.

The judge in the case didn’t just reject the underlying claims, Middlebrooks could barely contain his disgust with the inanity of the legal complaint.

American courtrooms are not supposed to be abused by politicians filing frivolous cases for no reasons. Those who do open themselves up to possible sanctions — and in this case, the district court judge seemed open to that possibility in September.

As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones recently noted, Clinton’s lawyers asked Middlebrooks to force Team Trump to pay up. Yesterday, the judge agreed, concluding that the Republican’s attorneys filed litigation in bad faith.

“These were political grievances masquerading as legal claims,” Middlebrooks concluded. “This cannot be attributed to incompetent lawyering. It was a deliberate use of the judicial system to pursue a political agenda.” He went on to cite the attorneys’ “cavalier attitude towards facts.”

The penalties were imposed on several Trump lawyers, including Alina Habba. What’s more, the sanctions may not end there: “Additional sanctions may be appropriate,” the judge added in yesterday’s ruling.

Team Trump said it would appeal. Watch this space.