A judge in Florida has rebuked Donald Trump and his attorney, Alina Habba, for attempting to use the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries. U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks ordered Trump and Habba to pay nearly $1 million in damages to defendants for a “frivolous” lawsuit in March 2022. Trump attempted to sue Hillary Clinton, her key advisers, and top FBI officials for $70 million in damages, alleging they conspired against him with allegations that he was compromised by Russia. Despite the significant financial sanctions, Habba refiled the lawsuit in August after the release of a report from the Department of Justice’s special counsel John Durham.
The special counsel was appointed by Trump’s former U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate the probe into Trump’s ties to Russia. While the special counsel uncovered improper actions by some FBI officials, Durham did not secure significant convictions as Trump and his allies had hoped. Middlebrooks reiterated his previous views that the entire legal endeavor was frivolous and that the Durham report did not provide any new support for Trump’s claims in the lawsuit. He called Trump “a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” adding that the “case is straight out of that playbook.”
In January, Middlebrooks wrote that the case should never have been brought. He described the lawsuit as “a quintessential shotgun pleading” that only served “a political purpose.” Trump is the “mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process,” the judge added, sanctioning the former president and his attorney $937,989.39.
Habba and Trump later appealed the judge’s sanctions. Trump has consistently denied all allegations that he was colluding with Russia in 2016. Lengthy probes by Democratic lawmakers and a special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller failed to conclude that his 2016 presidential campaign was working with Moscow. The former president has described the entire Russia narrative as a “hoax” and routinely says his political opponents are engaging in a “witch hunt” against him.