"Everything Donald does is transactional," Mary Trump, a licensed psychologist and niece of the disgraced former President has explained.
A scathing federal court decision late last week, awarding nearly one million dollars in sanctions against Don the Con and his attorney in response to just one of his many recent frivolous lawsuits against perceived political enemies, underscores Mary's point. It also details how, since leaving office, 2020's biggest loser has engaged in and continues to engage in a litigation grift.
The withering 46-page order [PDF] handed down last Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in Donald J. Trump v. Hillary Clinton, et al. does more than explain why the veteran federal jurist awarded an eye-popping $937,989 in attorney's fee sanctions against the former President and his New Jersey lawyer, Alina Habba. The erudite legal ruling also contained an in-depth discussion of more than a half-dozen other deceptive and frivolous lawsuits that this "predator" and "successful sociopath" filed against those he has long hoped to paint as enemies since leaving office.
In an attempt at reversing his more than 7 million vote loss at the polls, Trump and his allies filed and lost 61 out of 62 post-election lawsuits. The cases were so devoid of merit, so replete with deceptive allegations, that many of the former President's attorneys were later confronted with ethics complaints and sanctions ranging from fines, to censure and even disbarment.
In the aftermath of that debacle, a normal, non-sociopathic person would have slunk off towards oblivion, tail between his/her legs. Not The Donald.
From a "transactional" perspective, those 61 "losing" cases were a smashing success. They provided the failed President an opportunity to rake-in $250 million from his gullible "base".
But, along with imposing nearly $1 million in attorney's fees sanctions --- including almost $172,000 that Trump will now have to pay out to perhaps his greatest perceived personal nemesis, Hillary Clinton --- Judge Middlebrooks expressed the need to remediate the harm caused to the 31 named Defendants, whom he regarded as the victims of an "abusive" and "completely frivolous" complaint. His Honor eviscerated Trump's lawsuit as one "that should never have been filed"; a lawsuit that was drafted only "to advance a political narrative; not to address legal harm caused by any Defendant." The veteran and very able jurist also expressed a hope that the eye-popping amount of court sanctions might act as a deterrent.
Nonetheless, as long as Trump's litigation fundraising continues to rake-in enormous sums, it's unlikely that anything short of criminal prosecution for some of his many alleged crimes will ultimately accomplish that worthy goal. Maybe...
Pattern of Abuse
A common theme ran through each of the several other frivolous and vindictive lawsuits filed by Trump and reviewed by Judge Middlebrooks before issuing his sanctions order. Each, he observed, bore "telltale signs" that included: "Provocative or boastful rhetoric; a political narrative carried over from rallies; attacks on political opponents and news media; disregard for legal principles, and fundraising and payments to lawyers from political action committees."
In this instance, Trump's failed suit was dismissed with prejudice by the veteran jurist last year. The court lamented that the defendants/victims had been targeted by the former President with false claims that they colluded to steal an election that, in 2016, the 45th President actually won! Judge Middlebrooks quoted the complaint's pathetic, evidence-free allegations that defendants "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."
But, as Middlebrooks noted: "Trump's Save America PAC has spent $9.7 million in legal fees since 2021," and his attorney, Ms. Habba, who has also "become a senior advisor for Mr. Trump's new MAGA, political action committee," received $2 million. That's a powerful incentive to help extend the ex-President's continuing career as the grifter-in-chief of the U.S. judicial system.
Trump v. Clinton
As laid out in Judge Middlebrooks' Sept. 8, 2022 Order on Motions to Dismiss, on 3/22/22 the former President filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida --- the same District where his favorite jurist, the thoroughly rebuked Aileen Cannon, presides. In fact, as Middlebrooks observed in a footnote to that order: "Plaintiff [Trump] filed this lawsuit in the Fort Pierce division of this District, where only one federal judge sits: Judge Aileen Cannon, who Plaintiff appointed in 2020. Despite the odds, this case landed with me instead."
After the case was assigned to Judge Middlebrooks, Trump moved to disqualify him based upon nothing more than the fact that this very able and ethical jurist had been nominated to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1997. The motion was denied after the judge observed that "when Plaintiff is a litigant before a judge that he himself appointed, he does not tend to advance these same sorts of bias concerns."
The amended complaint named 31 Defendants, including, but not limited to, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, Rod Rosentein and, for good measure, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
The dismissal order revealed that, over the span of 527 paragraphs, in the first 118 pages of the amended complaint, Trump and Habba rambled on about "a series of disconnected political disputes [surrounding the FBI/DOJ investigations of potential connections between Russia and the 2016 Trump Campaign] that [Trump] alchemized into a sweeping conspiracy among the many individuals." The court agreed with Defendants' argument that "dismissal [was] warranted because [Trump's] claims are both 'hopelessly stale' --- that is, foreclosed by the applicable statute of limitations --- and because they fail on the merits...Whatever the utilities of [the amended complaint] as a fundraising tool, a press release, or a list of political grievances, it [had] no merit as a lawsuit."
In his sanctions decision, Judge Middlebrooks poked fun at Trump's malicious prosecution claim when, in fact, there was no prosecution and an alleged theft of trade secrets claim when there were no trade secrets involved.
The court described the amended complaint as a "hodgepodge of disconnected, often immaterial facts, followed by an implausible conclusion." Worse, he observed:
The court furnished an example in which a claim was not merely false, but absurd:
Moreover, in a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against Twitter...he alleged that "Democrat legislators" pressured Twitter to censor him and that he was banned for exercising his right of free speech...The assertion that the Twitter ban was caused by misinformation by Ms. Clinton five years earlier is obviously false.
Between 11/15/21 and 10/22/22, Trump and his attorneys, via letters and rally statements, threatened the Pulitzer Board with litigation if it did not "take immediate steps to strip The New York Times and the Washington Post of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting." The prize had been awarded to the newspapers based upon their accurate, groundbreaking coverage of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and their revelations about Russian ties to both Trump's campaign and members of his administration. The Pulitzer Board refused to take back the awarded prize, and, using the same BS grievances and falsehoods that formed the basis for Trump v. Clinton, the former President then sued the 19-members of the Pulitzer Board in FL state court for "defamation by implication."
Judge Middlebroooks described the Pulitzer lawsuit as an "effort by Mr. Trump and his lawyers to use the courts to bully journalists as part of a dishonest and futile attempt to rewrite history [and] a shameless attack on a freedom essential to democracy."
After the rejection by New York state courts of Trump's efforts to quash subpoenas issued by the Office of state Attorney General Letitia James, in Dec. 2021, Trump sued AG James in a NY federal court, alleging her investigations violated his constitutional rights. Finding Trump's claims "unsupported", the federal court in NY granted AG James' motion to dismiss.
Undeterred, on 11/2/22 Trump then sued James in her individual capacity in a FL state court. The next day he underscored his disdain for the NY courts, both state and federal, by posting this screed on his personally-owed social media outlet:
That move backfired bigly when the FL state case was transferred to federal court and wound up also, ironically enough, on Judge Middlebrooks' docket. Oops!
On 12/21/22, his Honor denied Trump's emergency motion for a temporary injunction, finding the former President's "attempt to sidestep rulings by the New York courts by suing AG James individually rather than in her official capacity" was frivolous. In addition to finding that Trump failed to establish the basic prerequisites for injunctive relief, the federal Judge ruled that Trump's effort "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."
After being hammered by that ruling last year and just hours after Judge Middlebrooks' blistering sanctions order in Trump v Clinton last Thursday, the former President voluntarily dismissed the suit he'd filed against the NY AG in Florida.
Of course, just after leaving office, Trump filed three separate lawsuits against Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As, Judge Middlebrooks wrote:
The Judge did take note of one frivolous lawsuit that Trump filed while in office. On 3/6/20 Trump sued CNN for libel over an article which opined that it was "a crime to solicit dirt on your political opponents from a foreign government". Although that case was dismissed on 12/21/20, on 8/20/22 the thoroughly disgraced former President began fundraising for another CNN lawsuit which was filed on 10/3/22. That, of course, prompted another series of fundraising emails.
The grift continues. At this point, it's arguable that only a criminal indictment will put an end to it. But even that remains an open question...