When it comes to litigation threats, Donald Trump has earned a reputation as something of a paper tiger. The Republican would huff and puff about targeting his perceived foes with rivals, but too often, the former president’s threats proved to be meaningless.
Over the last year or so, however, Trump has postured less and sued more. For those tired of his hollow attempts at intimidation, that’s the good news. For those looking for serious legal filings, however, the Republican’s litigation strategy has been something of a disaster.
His case against Hillary Clinton and other Democratic foes was so pitiful that a judge threw out the case and then imposed nearly $1 million in sanctions. His case against the Pulitzer Prize Board is arguably every bit as ridiculous.
And what about the former president’s case against the New York attorney general? Oddly enough, as NBC News reported, that lawsuit has quietly gone away, at least for now.
Former President Donald Trump has dropped the federal lawsuit he filed in Florida against New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump’s lawyers filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in the case before U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks on Friday morning.
For those who benefit from a refresher, let’s briefly review how we arrived at this point.
In September, James announced a sweeping lawsuit against the former president, his three eldest children and the Trump Organization itself. The civil case was rather devastating: The state attorney general’s office, pointing to more than 200 instances of fraud over 10 years, is seeking roughly $250 million in civil penalties.
Shortly before Christmas, Trump and his lawyers apparently thought it’d be a good idea to turn the tables and sue James’ office, accusing the state AG of pursuing a politically motivated vendetta.
This wasn’t a good idea. As MSNBC opinion columnist Jessica Levinson explained, “As is often the case with his lawsuits, Trump’s only problem with his suit against James is that the law is against him. Prosecutors can have political biases without violating the constitutional rights of the people the prosecutor is investigating.”
In other words, the case was very likely to fail.
So why withdraw the lawsuit, rather than let the process play out? Because the case was pending with Judge Middlebrooks — who just happens to be the same federal jurist who excoriated Trump and his attorneys for having filed the indefensible anti-Clinton case.
“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,” Middlebrooks wrote Thursday. “As such, I find that sanctions should be imposed upon Mr. Trump and his lead counsel.”
And wouldn’t you know it, about half a day after the judge imposed sanctions on Team Trump totaling $937,989, the former president and his lawyers effectively said, “Never mind that other frivolous case we filed.”
To be sure, the Republican may yet refile the case at some other time. But at least for now, this looks like an embarrassing retreat in response to a brutal failure.