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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Trump Attorneys Face Sanctions in Michigan for Bogus Election Claims

Detroit officials and Michigan’s Democratic governor want to punish the attorneys who filed baseless election fraud claims on behalf of the former president, asking a judge to hold them up as an example to prevent similar filings.

DETROIT (CN) — In a contentious marathon hearing for sanctions over unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, a Michigan federal judge listened to lawyers on each side battle each other Monday and even sparred with them herself.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and the city of Detroit are seeking fines and discipline for Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood for what they call frivolous claims.

Whitmer wants the state to receive at least $11,000 in legal fees, while Detroit is asking U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker to order the lawyers who have collected post-election campaign funds to pay back the money. The city also wants Powell, Wood and others to face disciplinary hearings in their respective home states.

Parker, a Barack Obama appointee, was in a stern mood through the hearing as she dissected several affidavits and tried to determine their true purpose.

The judges wondered why Trump’s lawyer did not bother with evidentiary support after going through the trouble of getting affidavits claiming malfeasance by Michigan election officials.

Representing Detroit, attorney David Fink of Fink Bressack could not hold his silence.  

“They threw something against the wall, hoping for something to stick,” he blurted out during Monday’s hearing.

Parker peppered attorney and former Trump staffer Julia Haller with questions about due diligence for the affidavits that were submitted.

“Is there anything in here that is not speculative?” the judge asked.

“The witness is saying what he knows to be true,” Haller responded, her voice breaking at times as she tried to explain the filings were part of a pattern of evidence of widespread voting fraud.

Parker scoffed at that assertion and noted the language in the affidavits often used phrases like “could be” and “appeared to.”

In this June 24, 2021, file photo, former President Donald Trump attorney Sidney Powell leaves federal court in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Attorney Howard Kleinhendler, who helped Powell draft the lawsuit that led to the sanctions hearing, was adamant the merits of the case were legitimate.

“We filed this lawsuit on behalf of clients, not for public relations,” he said.

Powell spoke up at times during the hearing to plead her case. She said that the 960 pages of affidavits Trump’s team submitted in the case demonstrated due diligence.

Parker countered that a large filing does not make a case legitimate.

Michigan attorney Donald Campbell, representing Powell at the hearing, said the litigation was simply a part of the system of checks and balances.

“It’s this system of voting, counting and challenging that the public can draw confidence from. This lawsuit was an opportunity to challenge if the election was performed correctly,” he said. “The facts are that folks doubted this election.”

Campbell also denied the legal effort did anything to provoke Trump supporters to participate in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an attempt to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory.

Wood was upset that he was even in the hearing, arguing the motion for sanctions should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and saying he would obtain separate counsel to assist him.

“The evidence will show that there is no factual basis on which this court can sanction me,” he said.

Wood became argumentative with Parker when he tried to get an extended response deadline to hire another lawyer and review transcripts from the hearing. He grew angry when the judge said he could not address remarks from Fink, the lawyer for Detroit.

“This is not a debate,” Parker exclaimed.

Fink used his closing statements to urge Parker to impose sanctions on the lawyers to set an example and discourage similar conduct in the future.

“Let the world know they can’t use the court to say lies,” he said.

Fink also said the lawyers involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election should be referred to their respective state bar associations for discipline and should be forever barred from practicing law in the Eastern District of Michigan.

The bickering between Wood and Fink caused the court reporter to eventually break down and briefly stop the proceedings to scold the parties. She pleaded for people to stop speaking over each other.

“We’ve been going since 8:30 [a.m.]…and you are all interrupting each other, and that’s the kind of record you want,” the court reporter said in a frustrated tone.

Parker said she would soon issue an order and opinion on deadlines for each party’s filings.

“It’s been a long day, but it was a necessary day,” the judge said.

Categories / Courts, Law, Politics

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