WASHINGTON — A federal judge Wednesday sanctioned some of former President Donald Trump’s attorneys who unsuccessfully challenged Michigan’s 2020 election results.
In a blistering 110-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker in Michigan imposed sanctions on Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and other lawyers involved in making claims about election fraud in the state.
Powell, Wood and others joined a lawsuit in November alleging widespread fraud in the presidential contest in Michigan, which President Joe Biden won. Parker dismissed the lawsuit a month later because she found that it was based largely on “speculation and conjecture,” according to The Associated Press.
“This lawsuit represents a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process,” Parker wrote in her ruling Wednesday. “It is one thing to take on the charge of vindicating rights associated with an allegedly fraudulent election. It is another to take on the charge of deceiving a federal court and the American people into believing that rights were infringed, without regard to whether any laws or rights were in fact violated. This is what happened here.”
It is the latest instance of a Trump attorney’s being penalized for involvement in spreading election conspiracies. In New York and Washington, D.C., former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was suspended from practicing law this year because he made false statements while trying to get courts to overturn Trump’s loss.
Powell, who for a time was part of Trump’s legal team fighting the election results, repeatedly and baselessly claimed that votes were illegally switched on Dominion Voting Systems machines and through other fraudulent means. Powell’s attorneys, however, later admitted in a court filing defending her against a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit by Dominion that “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact.”
Dominion has also filed defamation suits against Giuliani and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, and Dominion CEO John Poulos told CNBC to expect more lawsuits. The voting systems company Smartmatic has also sued Powell, Giuliani and Fox News over their election fraud claims. Fox News later filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit.
Parker said the Trump attorneys exploited their privilege to spread unfounded claims about the election.
“And this case was never about fraud — it was about undermining the People’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so,” she said.
Parker ordered the lawyers to pay Detroit’s court costs and to undergo 12 hours of continuing legal education, including six hours on election law. She is also sending a copy of her decision to state attorney grievance commissions for investigation, possible suspension or disbarment of the lawyers.
Election experts and officials, as well as top law enforcement officials, have said that the election results were accurate and that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S.
Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent who covers the Justice Department and the Supreme Court, based in Washington.
Dartunorro Clark covers politics, including the Covid-19 recovery, for NBC News.