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Trump fined nearly $1 million for frivolous lawsuit against Clinton

A Florida federal judge said the former president's complaint against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee was misleading and filed in bad faith.

(CN) — Former President Donald Trump and one of his lawyers were fined nearly $1 million by a federal judge in Florida late Thursday for bringing a frivolous lawsuit against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Filed more than five years after their matchup in the 2016 presidential election, the lawsuit alleged that Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and others “maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative” that Trump colluded with Russia during the race. It accused them of "falsifying evidence, deceiving law enforcement, and exploiting access to highly-sensitive data sources" to do so.

However, the judge called Trump's claims "completely frivolous, both factually and legally."

“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,” U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks wrote in a 46-page judgment published Thursday night.

Handing down $937,989.39 in fines, the Bill Clinton appointee slammed Trump and his lawyer Alina Habba for their “continuing pattern of misuse of the courts,” which he said “undermines the rule of law, portrays judges as partisans, and diverts resources from those who have suffered actual legal harm.” 

Trump’s suit sought damages three times the $24 million that he claims he lost from defending himself against the Russia allegations during his campaign.  

Last September, Middlebrook granted Clinton's motion for dismissal with prejudice. He found that the motion “identified substantial and fundamental factual and legal flaws” in Trump’s complaint.

According to Thursday night's order, Trump, Habba and the Habba Madaio & Associates law firm used an "abusive litigation tactic" that included filing three categories of shotgun pleadings condemned by the 11th Circuit in their lawsuit.

Middlebrook said these pleadings combined multiple counts with preceding counts, included "conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any particular cause of action," and contained multiple claims against multiple defendants without specifying which ones were allegedly responsible for each act.

Even after Trump and his counsel amended their complaint, the judge said it was "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," Middlebrook wrote.

The judge wrote that facts were misrepresented and portions of public reports were "cherry-picked" to support a false factual narrative. He pointed to Trump's false claim that he was exonerated by the 2019 report from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who said his team found no sufficient evidence of "collusion" between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Another example Middlebrook cited was the allegations of collusion between former FBI Director James B. Comey and Clinton, a claim he referred to as “categorically absurd” given the impact of Comey’s investigation into Clinton’s emails had on her 2016 campaign.

Trump and his counsel also tried to hold Clinton liable for his suspension from Twitter, alleging he was banned as a result of a "misinformation campaign." But Middlebrook noted Trump's Twitter account was not suspended until Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Jan. 6 on the U.S. Capitol, because Twitter determined his tweets posed “the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Representatives for Trump and Habba did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

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