A federal judge ordered former US President Donald Trump and his lawyers to pay nearly $1 million (€0.92 million) Thursday for suing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over claims she tried to rig the 2016 presidential election.
In a fiercely critical filing, US District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks accused Trump of a “pattern of abuse of the courts.” By filing “frivolous” lawsuits, Trump “undermines the rule of law” in a way that “amounts to obstruction of justice.”
Middlebrooks said the Republican, who is seeking to return to the White House in 2024, had filed the suit “in order to dishonestly advance a political narrative.”
The ruling is an embarrassment for the Republican who announced a third run for the White House in November.
What did the judge rule?
Middlebrooks last year threw out the $70 million lawsuit, which claimed that Clinton, who lost the 2016 US presidential election to Trump, and others had created a false narrative that his campaign had colluded with Russia.
The suit “should never have been brought,” Middlebrooks said in the 45-page written court order.
The judge cited Trump’s recent legal action against the Pulitzer Prize board, New York Attorney General Letitia James, big tech companies and CNN in describing Trump as “a prolific and sophisticated litigant” who uses the courts “to seek revenge on political adversaries.”
The ruling ordered Trump and his attorney, Alina Habba, to pay nearly $938,000 to the defendants in the case.
“Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it,” the judge wrote, adding that “none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim.”
A spokesman for Trump and Habba did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Lawsuit blamed Clinton, FBI over Russia scandal
The original lawsuit claimed that Clinton, former top FBI officials and the Democratic Party and others had conspired to sink his winning presidential campaign by alleging ties to Russia.
The suit had also named as defendants several of Clinton’s top advisers, as well as former FBI Director James Comey.
Some analysts believe Comey may have cost Clinton the 2016 election as, just two weeks before the vote, he ordered the reopening of a probe into her use of a private email server to handle classified information during her tenure as US secretary of state.
Middlebrooks had dismissed Trump’s lawsuit in September, calling it “a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him.”
US special prosecutor Robert Mueller carried out an investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign had coordinated with Russia to sway the outcome of the election.
His report concluded that Russia had used a social media campaign to support Trump’s candidacy while attacking Clinton’s and found that Russian intelligence had hacked and released damaging material from the Clinton campaign through Wikileaks.
However, the probe could not establish that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
Trump sought re-election in 2020 but was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden, after which he repeatedly made false claims blaming widespread voting fraud for his loss.
All eyes on 2024 election race
In November, Trump launched a run for the 2024 presidential election, setting up a potential rematch against Biden.
But some analysts think his chances look bleak as many within the Republican party are ready to move on.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is widely tipped to run against Trump for the Republican nomination.
mm/ar (AFP, AP, Reuters)