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Judge suggests ‘Kraken’ lawsuits were meant to ‘make the public believe’ Trump’s false election claims

Pro-Trump lawyers including Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may face sanctions

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Monday 12 July 2021 21:34 BST
Sidney Powell and Lin Wood attend 'Stop the Steal' rally in Georgia

The Michigan federal judge who rejected a lawsuit seeking to overturn Michigan's 2020 election results appears sceptical of pro-Trump lawyers' claims that they should not face financial and professional sanctions for filing scores of dubious affidavits with her court.

In December, Judge Linda Parker rejected an effort by attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood to have the court throw out certification of President Joe Biden's victory, writing that the court would not "ignore the orderly statutory scheme established to challenge elections and ... ignore the will of millions of voters."

More than six months later, Ms Powell, Mr Wood, and a host of other GOP lawyers who assisted them were back in Judge Parker's courtroom to answer to motions filed by the City of Detroit, the State of Michigan, and the Democratic National Committee, in which the defendants of the so-called "Kraken" lawsuit asked her to throw out the plaintiff's lawyers' legal careers instead, by way of referring each of them for disbarment by authorities in their respective states.

The attorney representing Detroit, David Fink, noted that his client had asked the judge to apply sanctions and referrals for discipline just one day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol in hopes of stopping Congress from putting the final stamp of certification on Mr Biden's win.

Mr Fink said that in the months since, people across the world have found reasons to doubt America's democratic process "because of the lies spread in this courtroom" by Ms Powell, Mr Wood, and their co-counsel, including Julia Haller, a former Department of Housing and Urban Development official who began crying at one point during Monday's proceedings. He also called the litigation an "embarrassment to the legal profession" that had been "from the beginning to the end, an attempt to get a message out that was extrajudicial".

In many cases, that message took the form of hundreds of affidavits which pro-Trump lawyers had sourced from partisan poll challengers and anyone who wanted to submit one, often using a Trump campaign-aligned website.

Over the course of the more than five-hour hearing, Judge Parker questioned attorneys on whether they'd done any work to vet the allegations made in any of those affidavits, calling one such sworn declaration – in which a man walking his dog claimed that he saw a couple hand a trio of plastic bags which he asserted "might" contain ballots to a postal worker in a car park – "really fantastical".

The judge asked: "How could any of you as officers of the court submit this affidavit?"

Ms Haller denied that it was anything of the sort, at which point Judge Parker called the affidavit in question "total speculation". She also suggested that the attorneys' point in filing such documents was not to provide evidence in her courtroom, but to provide supporters of now-former President Trump with cherry-pickable anecdotes they can use to claim that there were problems with the 2020 election.

"My concern is that counsel here has submitted affidavits to suggest and make the public believe that there was something wrong with the election ... that's what these average affidavits are designed to do, to show there was something wrong in Michigan, there was something wrong in Wayne County," Judge Parker said, using the names of two jurisdictions in the state with large Black populations.

Mr Trump has also blamed his election loss on non-existent "fraud" in cities with large Black populations, including Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

If any of the attorneys who appeared on Monday face professional sanctions, they will not be the first lawyers advocating for Mr Trump to suffer professional consequences. Last month, a panel of New York state judges suspended ex-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's law licence, citing multiple false statements the former New York City mayor had made in and out of courtrooms as he laboured to get Mr Trump's loss thrown out.

"The seriousness of respondent's uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated," the judges wrote.

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