Former US president Donald Trump and one of his lawyers have been sanctioned by a Florida judge – who ordered them to pay almost one million US dollars (£810,000) for what he said was a bogus legal claim against Hillary Clinton and others.
Donald M Middlebrooks accused Mr Trump of a “pattern of abuse of the courts” by filing frivolous claims for political purposes, which he said “undermines the rule of law” and “amounts to obstruction of justice”.
He wrote in a ruling: “Here, we are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose.”
Citing his recent legal action against the Pulitzer Prize board, New York’s attorney general, big technology companies and media giant CNN, Mr Middlebrooks described Mr Trump as a “prolific and sophisticated litigant” who uses the courts “to seek revenge on political adversaries”.
He wrote: “He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process.”
The ruling ordered Mr Trump and his lawyer Alina Habba to pay nearly 938,000 dollars (£758,626) to the defendants in the case.
A spokesman for Mr Trump and Ms Habba did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In September, Mr Middlebrooks dismissed the case Mr Trump filed against his 2016 rival Mrs Clinton, former top FBI officials and the Democratic Party, rejecting the ex-president’s claims they and others conspired to sink his winning presidential campaign by alleging ties to Russia.
Defendants in the claim included Mrs Clinton and some of her top advisers, as well as former FBI director James Comey and other FBI officials involved in an investigation into whether Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign worked with Russia to sway the outcome of the election.
Mr Middlebrooks said then the claim had “glaring structural deficiencies” and many of the “characterisations of events are implausible”.
In the wake of the sanctions, Mr Trump on Friday withdrew his lawsuit against New York attorney general Letitia James.
The case, in federal court in Florida, had also been before Mr Middlebrooks.
Mr Trump sued Ms James in November in response to her lawsuit alleging he and his company mislead banks and others about the value of assets in a practice she dubbed “The art of the steal”.
Mr Trump, a Republican, also sought to prevent Ms James, a Democrat, from having any oversight over the family trust that controls his company.
His 35-page complaint rehashed some claims from his previously dismissed lawsuit against Ms James in federal court in New York, irritating Mr Middlebrooks, who wrote in a December order: “This litigation has all the telltale signs of being both vexatious and frivolous.”
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