DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge considering whether to order sanctions against some of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers spent hours Monday drilling into details about an unsuccessful lawsuit that challenged Michigan’s 2020 election results.
The lawsuit alleging widespread fraud was eventually dropped after the judge found nothing but “speculation and conjecture” that votes for Trump somehow were destroyed or switched to votes for Joe Biden, who won Michigan by 2.8 percentage points.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the city of Detroit now want the plaintiffs and a raft of attorneys, including Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, to face the consequences of pursuing what they call frivolous claims, the first effort to wrench fines or other penalties.
“It was never about winning on the merits of the claims, but rather (the) purpose was to undermine the integrity of the election results and the people’s trust in the electoral process and in government,” the attorney general’s office said in a court filing.
U.S. District Judge Linda Parker quickly learned Monday that Powell and Howard Kleinhendler drafted the lawsuit last fall, though subsequent court action was handled by Michigan-based lawyers.
Wood’s name was on the lawsuit. But he insisted he had no role other than to tell Powell that he would be available if the parties needed a seasoned litigator.
“I didn’t do anything in Michigan,” Wood told the judge during a Zoom hearing that at times attracted more than 5,000 people watching the video conference.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Indeed, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well, and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six Republican voters who wanted Parker to decertify Michigan’s election results and impound voting machines. Parker declined in December, calling the request “stunning in its scope and breathtaking in its reach.”
Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, also a Democrat, want the state to receive at least $11,000 in legal fees. Detroit is asking the judge to disgorge any money that lawyers have collected through a post-election fundraising campaign. The city also wants the lawyers to face disciplinary hearings in their respective states.
The hearing got tense as lawyers spoke over each other. The court reporter, Andrea Wabeke, got frustrated, pleading with them to “please stop interrupting.”
Don Campbell, an attorney representing Powell and other lawyers, said there was plenty of legal precedent to go to federal court and challenge the performance of an election. He said the lawyers can’t be hit with sanctions simply because an opinion submitted through an expert’s affidavit might be wrong.
“We had a good faith basis,” Kleinhendler said of an affidavit that alleged thousands of new ballots suddenly turned up in Detroit.
In New York, Rudy Giuliani has been suspended from practicing law because he made false statements while trying to get courts to overturn Trump’s election loss.
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