A Florida-based federal judge has ordered nearly $1 million in sanctions against Donald Trump and his attorney Alina Habba, calling the former president a “mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process.”
In a blistering 46-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks said Trump’s sprawling lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and dozens of former Justice Department and FBI officials was an almost cartoonish abuse of the legal system.
“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,” Middlebrooks wrote. “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.“
The judge ordered Trump and Habba to pay $938,000 to cover the legal costs for the 31 defendants Trump linked in his year-old lawsuit. It’s the second time Middlebrooks has sanctioned Habba in the Clinton lawsuit. The first time was a $50,000 order sought by a single defendant, Charles Dolan. The new round of sanctions was sought by the remaining defendants.
In the new order, Hillary Clinton got the biggest award of fees for a single defendant: almost $172,000.
It’s the latest legal setback for Trump, who continues to face peril in advancing criminal probes and civil lawsuits related to his effort to overturn the 2020 election and his retention of sensitive national security records at his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving office.
Middlebrooks’ ruling included a point-by-point recitation of the flaws in Trump’s initial lawsuit, noting that it often misstated, distorted or cherrypicked from key documents he claimed supported allegations of a grand conspiracy between Clinton and the Justice Department to target Trump for criminal prosecution.
“The Amended Complaint is a hodgepodge of disconnected, often immaterial events, followed by an implausible conclusion. This is a deliberate attempt to harass; to tell a story without regard to facts,” Middlebrooks, an appointee of former president Bill Clinton, wrote.
He specifically cited Trump’s claim that Clinton conspired with former FBI Director James Comey to seek a Trump prosecution — one that Middlebrooks noted never occurred — as “categorically absurd.” He also noted that Trump and Habba repeatedly mischaracterized the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. They also cited Russian intelligence — shared by then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe with Sen. Lindsey Graham — as a basis for one of their claims, without noting that it was Russian intelligence and that Ratcliffe said it was unverified.
“Mr. Trump’s lawyers saw no professional impediment or irony in relying upon Russian intelligence as the good faith basis for their allegation,” Middlebrooks wrote.
In his order, Middlebrooks cited Habba’s attacks on him in a Fox News interview, which he said continued to distort the facts of the case and make baseless allegations of improprieties by federal judges and magistrates. He also recounted a litany of other cases filed by Trump and his attorneys that bore similar hallmarks of frivolity.