Judge Tells Trump Durham Report Doesn’t Prove Hillary Clinton Conspired Against Him To [Squints At 2016] LOSE Election
from the mfer-apparently-unable-to-take-the-W dept
Former president Donald Trump has been engaged in plenty of questionable litigation. And not just during and following his mercifully short-lived stint as the supposed leader of the free world.
But this still remains one of the weirdest lawsuits Trump has filed. This lawsuit — which he has already lost — claims the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton conspired to rig the election… he won. That’s right, he sued over what he claimed was a rigged 2016 election. Not 2020. 2016. The one he actually won. Yeah, I don’t know what to make of that either. It’s a lot easier to prove a conspiracy when you come out on the losing end. I’m not sure what Trump wanted from this lawsuit. He couldn’t have been any more of a president than he already was. Even if there was a conspiracy (there wasn’t), there were no damages. He was, for four very long years, the Commander-in-Chief.
The federal court saddled with this absurd lawsuit dumped it last September, summarizing it this way:
Plaintiff’s theory of this case, set forth over 527 paragraphs in the first 118 pages of the Amended Complaint, is difficult to summarize in a concise and cohesive manner. It was certainly not presented that way.
And it punctuated its decision with this:
More troubling, the claims presented in the Amended Complaint are not warranted under existing law. In fact, they are foreclosed by existing precedent, including decisions of the Supreme Court.
But, as we’re all painfully aware, Trump is incapable of accepting undeniable losses. Three months after this decision, Trump’s lawyers were hit with $76,274.23 in sanctions. Here’s what the court said then:
Not just initiated by a shotgun pleading, this was a shotgun lawsuit. Thirty-one individuals and organizations were summoned to court, forced to hire lawyers to defend against frivolous claims. The only common thread against them was Mr. Trump’s animus.
Plaintiff deliberately misrepresented public documents by selectively using some portions while omitting other information including findings and conclusions that contradicted his narrative. This occurred with the Danchenko Indictment, the Department of Justice Inspector General’s Report for Operation Hurricane, and the Mueller Report. It was too frequent to be accidental.
Every claim was frivolous, most barred by settled, well-established existing law. These were political grievances masquerading as legal claims. This cannot be attributed to incompetent lawyering. It was a deliberate use of the judicial system to pursue a political agenda.
Two months later, Trump’s lawyers were sanctioned again by the same court. This time, the fees totaled nearly $1 million. The court was still as irate as ever:
This case should never have been brought. Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim.
Somehow, Trump (and the lawyers that still dare to represent him) believe this series of resounding defeats are still contestable. Trump submitted a filing referring to the Durham Report released in May of this year. He apparently hasn’t read it. It doesn’t say what he thinks it does. It does not show there was an overarching conspiracy to deprive him of an election win (you know, in the election he WON). The report resulted in nothing more than a guilty plea from one former FBI lawyer, who admitted he altered an email to generate (bogus) probable cause for the continued surveillance of short-lived Trump-coattail rider Carter Page.
The court’s latest ruling [PDF] is similarly exasperated with Trump’s insistence on wasting its time with baseless claims and non-actionable allegations. That much is clear almost immediately. Here’s how this ruling opens:
On May 12, 2023, Special Counsel John H. Durham submitted his Report on Matters Related to Intelligence Activities and Investigations Arising Out of the 2016 Presidential Campaigns (“Durham Report”). Plaintiff and his lawyers tout the Report as “newly discovered evidence” and they now ask me to reconsider my previous rulings. But far from “seismically alter[ing] the legal landscape of this case” (DE 331 at 6), the Durham Report changes nothing. Nor could it really.
Even if the Durham Report uncovered the sort of vast conspiracy alleged by Plaintiff (it plainly did not), it would not change the many legal conclusions I made in the Order dismissing Plaintiff’s lawsuit. And whatever the Durham Report can be said to have uncovered, for purposes of this case, it does not change my findings that Movants acted in bad faith in bringing this lawsuit and that this case exemplifies Mr. Trump’s history of abusing the judicial process. Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff and his lawyers’ Motion for Indicative Ruling Based Upon New Evidence is denied.
Oof. I mean, that’s what a normal litigant would say. Who knows what someone like Trump might say when reading this smackdown of another (of what will presumably be several) attempts to revive a case that’s been (as was said in The Thick of It) “Brian Jones*” since day one.
The point is hammered home a few pages later, following the discussion of legal standards, which is something Trump and his lawyers need to be constantly be reminded of.
I struggle to even imagine anything that the Durham Report could say to warrant a change in any of those conclusions—the sum of which foreclosed Plaintiff’s claims and led to sanctions. And after reading all 306 single-spaced pages of the Durham Report, I am not convinced that anything it does say merits the extraordinary relief of granting a Rule 60(b) motion.
The court notes that the Durham Report was released after its dismissal of the lawsuit (and two consecutive sanctions orders), making it pretty much inadmissible. And even if it theoretically could be considered “new evidence,” Trump’s legal team has already made the assertion that there’s nothing really new about the contents of the report.
I also reject Movants’ argument that “[w]hile much of the information contained within the Durham Report may have been reported in the press or asserted in legal proceedings prior to the Durham Report’s release, the existence of this same information in a report of an official government investigation is fundamentally different and new.” (DE 336 at 9) (emphasis added). That is exactly the opposite of “newly discovered evidence.”
The court also points out that if this was truly “new” evidence, you’d think Trump would have asked to file an amended complaint. But that didn’t happen. Instead, his legal team lobbed the Durham Report into the court and claimed that alone justified a re-examination of Trump’s (bogus) claims — the claims that said Hillary Clinton, et al conspired to rig an election TRUMP WON.
This was not good faith litigation. This was exactly what the court called it months ago. It was Trump weaponizing the legal system for political purposes. And this attempt to revive the suit has only provided the court another opportunity to criticize Trump and his litigation tactics.
Movants ignored the unfavorable parts of Special Counsel Durham’s indictments. See, e.g., (Indictment ¶ 36, United States v. Danchenko, No. 21-cr-00245, (E.D. Va. Nov. 3, 2021)) (“According to [Mr. Dolan], individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign did not direct, and were not aware of, the aforementioned meetings and activities with Danchenko and other Russian nationals.”) (emphasis omitted). And in alleging that Plaintiff was “banned from different social media platforms, including Twitter” as a result of “the misinformation campaign waged by Hillary Clinton,” (Amended Complaint ¶ 524 n.277), Movants at best made it up and at worst flatly lied. See Twitter Inc., Permanent Suspension of @realDonaldTrump, Twitter Blog (Jan 8, 2021), (suspending Mr. Trump following January 6th attack on the Capitol because his tweets posed “the risk of further incitement of violence.”).
A shotgun pleading, especially one of this length and scope, was not an academic error—it had real-world, negative consequences for Defendants and this Court. Defendants were forced to spend an enormous amount of time and money untangling a web of largely irrelevant facts and frivolous legal conclusions. And this Court diverted an unusual amount of resources and time to properly adjudicate this dispute. The Eleventh Circuit has likened a shotgun pleading of this nature to obstruction of justice. That Movants pressed on, even after Defendants raised the relevant Eleventh Circuit caselaw in their initial motions to dismiss, is inexcusable.
In conclusion, fuck this litigant in particular.
Movants pursued this lawsuit in bad faith for the improper purpose of dishonestly advancing a political narrative. As I previously explained, Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries. This case is straight out of that playbook. Nothing in the Durham Report changes that.
There will likely be no sanctions for this move, if only because the court doesn’t expect the defendants to respond to this obviously frivolous and desperate move by Trump and his lawyers. If Trump wants a conspiracy, I’m sure he’ll be able to find all the theories he wants. But what he won’t ever be able to do is prove that any of these theories are real.