TRUMP TO PAY FUSION GPS $50 GRAND
A new order by federal judge Donald Middlebrooks in Florida came down Thursday evening holding former President Trump and his lawyer Alina Habba jointly and severally liable for nearly $1 million in court-imposed sanctions for their frivolous and baseless RICO lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and more than two dozen co-defendants over the 2016 election.
The judge gave a little history in his order:
“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 hope of destroying his life, his political career, and rigging the 2016 Presidential Election in favor of Hillary Clinton.”
“The next day, Alina Habba, Mr. Trump’s lead counsel told Fox News’ Sean Hannity:
“You can’t make this up. You literally cannot make a story like this up . . . and President Trump is just not going to take it anymore. If you are going to make up lies, if you are going to try to take him down, he is going to fight you back. And that is what this is, this is the beginning of all that.”
“She then explained on Newsmax:
“What the real goal [of the suit] is, is democracy, is continuing to make sure that our elections, continuing to make sure our justice system is not obstructed by political enemies. That cannot happen. And that’s exactly what happened. They obstructed justice. They continued the false narrative . . . This grand scheme, that you could not make up, to take down an opponent. That is un-American.”
“On April 20, 2022, less than a month after the Complaint was filed, Hillary Clinton moved for dismissal with prejudice. Her motion identified substantial and fundamental factual and legal flaws. Each of the other Defendants followed suit, pointing to specific problems with the claims against them. The problems in the Complaint were obvious from the start. They were identified by the Defendants not once but twice, and Mr. Trump persisted anyway.
“Despite this briefing and the promise “to cure any deficiencies,” Plaintiff’s counsel filed the Amended Complaint on June 21, 2022. (DE 177). The Amended Complaint failed to cure any of the defects. See DE 267, Order of Dismissal (September 8, 2022). Instead, Plaintiff added eighty new pages of largely irrelevant allegations that did nothing to salvage the legal sufficiency of his claims. (DE 267 at 64). The Amended Complaint is 193 pages in length, with 819 numbered paragraphs, and 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.
“On July 14, 2022, the United States moved pursuant to the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2679 (d)(i), to substitute itself as Defendant for James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Kevin Clinesmith. (DE 224). On July 21, 2022, I granted the motion to substitute.
“On September 8, 2022, I dismissed the case with prejudice as to all Defendants except for the United States.I issued a detailed and lengthy Order, which I incorporate by reference here. (DE 267). I found that fatal substantive defects which had been clearly laid out in the first round of briefing, precluded the Plaintiff from proceeding under any of the theories presented. I found that the Amended Complaint was a quintessential shotgun pleading, that its claims were foreclosed by existing precedent, and its factual allegations were undermined and contradicted by the public reports and filings upon which it purported to rely. I reserved jurisdiction to adjudicate issues pertaining to sanctions.
“Undeterred by my Order and two rounds of briefing by multiple defendants, Ms. Habba continued to advance Plaintiff’s claims. In a September 10, 2022, interview with Sean Hannity, the host asked her “Why isn’t [Hillary Clinton] being held accountable for what she did?” Ms. Habba’s response reiterated misrepresentations on which this lawsuit was based:
“Because when you have a Clinton judge as we did here, Judge Middlebrooks who I had asked to recuse himself but insisted that he didn’t need to, he was going to be impartial, and then proceeds to write a 65-page scathing order where he basically ignored every factual basis which was backed up by indictments, by investigations, the Mueller report, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, not to mention Durham, and all the testimony we heard there, we get dismissed. Not only do we get dismissed, he says that this is not the proper place for recourse for Donald Trump. He has no legal ramifications. Where what [sic] is the proper place for him? Because the FBI won’t help when you can do anything, obstruct justice, blatantly lie to the FBI, Sussmann’s out, he gets acquitted, where do you go? That’s the concern for me, where do you get that -- that recourse?”
“She also indicated that, while Mr. Trump doubted the suit would succeed, she nevertheless “fought” to pursue it:
“You know, I have to share with you a story, Sean, that I have not shared with anybody. The recourse that I have at this point is obviously to appeal this to the 11th Circuit as Gregg said. But when I brought this case and we were assigned you know, this judge and we went through the recusal process, we lost five magistrates, including Reinhart [sic] who’s dealing with the boxes as we know. The former president looked at me and he told me, you know what Alina. You’re not going to win. You can’t win, just get rid of it, don’t do the case. And I said, no, we have to fight. It’s not right what happened. And you know, he was right, and it’s a sad day for me personally because I fought him on [it] and I should have listened, but I don’t want to lose hope in our system. I don’t. So, you know I’m deciding whether we’re going to appeal it.”
“Defendants now move to recover attorneys’ fees and costs under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, 28 U.S.C. § 1927, the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and/or this Court’s inherent power. (DE 280 at 1). In Part II, I find that a sanction under this Court’s inherent power is appropriate. I do so by examining Plaintiff’s (and his lawyers’) conduct throughout this litigation.”
Judge Middlebrooks begins to get angry...
“The deliberate use of a shotgun pleading is an abusive litigation tactic which amounts to obstruction of justice. See Davis v. Coca Cola Bottling Co. Consol., 516 F.3d 955, 982 n.66 (11th Cir. 2008), abrogated on other grounds by Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). This case involved three categories of shotgun pleadings condemned by the Eleventh Circuit: (1) a complaint containing multiple counts where each count adopts the allegations of all preceding counts, causing each successive count to carry all that came before and the last count to be a combination of the entire complaint; (2) a complaint that is replete with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any particular cause of action; and (3) a complaint that asserts multiple claims against multiple defendants without specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is brought against. See Barmapov v. Amulal, 986 F.3d 1321, 1324 (11th Cir. 2021); Weiland v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sheriff’s Off., 792 F.3d 1313, 1320 (11th Cir. 2015).
“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... The 819 paragraphs of the 186-page Amended Complaint are filled with immaterial, conclusory facts not connected to any particular cause of action.”
He continues in detail, and then...
“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.
“In order to understand the scope of this abuse, multiply the above discussion by thirty-one defendants and their lawyers, forced to try to analyze and defend against the sprawling Complaints. I sifted through the thread of allegations against each defendant only to find they added up to no cognizable claim. And the pleadings were drafted in a way to disguise that fact.
“In three instances the Eleventh Circuit has found shotgun pleadings, less problematic than the pleadings here, as a basis for sanctions.”
Judge Middlebrooks pulled out his Judge’s Special Louisville Slugger with the lead tip, he swung it a few times, and stepped to the plate:
“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.”
The judge doesn’t let up:
“The Plaintiff consistently misrepresented and cherry-picked portions of public reports and filings to support a false factual narrative. Often the report or filing actually contradicted his allegations. It happened too often to be accidental; its purpose was political, not legal. Factual allegations were made without any evidentiary support in circumstances where falsity is evident.”
“The Plaintiff recklessly advanced claims foreclosed by existing precedent that the most basic legal research would have revealed. It was not that the Complaint and Amended Complaint were inadequate in any respect, they were inadequate in nearly every respect, even after the deficiencies had been identified in the multiple motions to dismiss. The Eleventh Circuit has squarely held that to knowingly advance frivolous claims constitutes bad faith meriting sanctions under a court’s inherent powers. Peer, 606 F.3d at 1316 (reversing district court’s failure to award sanctions under inherent powers based upon Circuit Court’s finding that lawyer “knowingly pursued a frivolous claim, and thus acted in bad faith.”).
“Despite its 193 pages, the Amended Complaint did not come close to stating a legal claim. That was never its intended purpose.”
“But this case is part of Mr. Trump’s pattern of misusing the courts to serve political purposes. Federal courts have both the inherent power and the constitutional obligation to protect their jurisdiction from conduct that impairs their ability to carry out Article III functions.”
“To be clear, the sanction in this case is not imposed against Mr. Trump for the Pulitzer, Twitter, or CNN litigation. Those cases are before other judges who will make their own determinations.”
(Uh-oh - this may well not be the only sanction he gets.)
“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.”
Judge Middlebrooks pins the blame firmly on Trump, not just his lawyer:
“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. … As such, I find that sanctions should be imposed upon Mr. Trump and his lead counsel, Ms. Habba.”
“Mr. Trump’s deliberate use of a frivolous lawsuit for an improper purpose constitutes bad faith. And the behavior is not unique, but part of a plan, or at least a playbook. The telltale signs: Provocative and boastful rhetoric; A political narrative carried over from rallies; Attacks on political opponents and the news media; Disregard for legal principles and precedent; and Fundraising and payments to lawyers from political action committees. And when a ruling is adverse, accusations of bias on the part of judges—often while the litigation is ongoing.”
Here’s the breakdown of what Trump and his bimbette real estate attorney have to pay:
Hillary Clinton: $171.631.06
HFAAC and John Podesta: $20,349.00
DNC, DNC Services Corporation
Congresswomman Debbie Wasserman Schultz: $179,685.44
Robert Mook: $70,207.08
Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch: $55,820.00
Bruce and Nellie Ohr: $59,310.00
Igor Danchenko: $23,749.00
Neustar Inc.: $134,143.50
Neustar Security Services: $53,547.98
Rodney Joffe: $119,436.19
Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd.: $50,050.00
This morning, Trump withdrew his Florida lawsuit against NY Attorney General Tish James, a move many saw as his Hail Mary bid to end the AG's $250 million civil lawsuit against the Trump organization and various individuals, including Trump himself.
The question is why?
(Drumroll) Wait for it...
He filed suit in Florida federal court to stop the investigation, hoping to get Judge Lucy Cannon again. But...
His suit against James shares a critical feature with another suit he has filed in Florida federal district court: the same judge, Donald Middlebrooks.
“On December 21, 2022, I denied the Emergency Motion for Temporary Injunction finding that none of the prerequisites for an injunction were met. (Trump v. James, DE 14). I found that Plaintiff’s attempt to sidestep rulings by the New York courts by suing AG James individually rather than in her official capacity was plainly frivolous. (Id. at 6). I found there was no likelihood of success on the merits, no irreparable harm, and to “impede a civil Enforcement Action by the New York Attorney General would be unprecedented and contrary to the interests of the people of New York.” (Id. at 8). I urged Mr. Trump and his lawyers to reconsider their opposition to AG James’s Motion to Dismiss because “[t]his litigation has all the telltale signs of being both vexatious and frivolous.” (Id. at n.6).”
Even El Jefe del Merde A Loco’s not moron enough to step into the lion’s den twice, expecting to come out alive.
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Thanks TC and thanks to Judge Middlebrooks. It's rare for a legal opinion to be interesting reading but you made it a page-turner. Have a great weekend.
If Orange Hitler's lawyer is not the subject of disbarment proceedings, then clearly we need to go back to square one with the American Bar Association and state organizations.