Trump should pay legal fees for failed lawsuit, Wisconsin governor says

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers used "inflammatory adjectives" to describe Donald Trump's failed election lawsuit, the former president said in a filing late Monday challenging the state's request for legal fees. (Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool/ABACAPRESS.COM/TNS)
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Erik Larson Bloomberg News (TNS)

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump should personally have to pay at least a portion of Wisconsin’s legal fees for filing a failed lawsuit to overturn the result of the 2020 election — not just his lawyers, the state’s Democratic governor told a judge.

Recent sanctions awards in similar cases, including a ruling this week in Michigan against former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, support sanctions against Trump and his attorneys, Gov. Tony Evers said in a filing Friday in federal court in Milwaukee.

“These decisions have made clear that the conduct of Trump and his counsel here crossed the line,” Evers, who previously argued Trump should personally pay, said in the filing.

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The governor, making a last-ditch argument to reimburse taxpayers, echoed earlier filings by the state that said Trump should have known his lawsuit was unsound from the beginning. He accused the former president of trying to recast the case “in sepia tones” to gloss over its many flaws, including a complete lack of evidence.

“It, like every other post-election lawsuit filed by Trump and his allies, was doomed from the beginning ,” lawyers for Evers said in the filing. “Trump and his attorneys cannot escape sanctions by arguing they were merely being creative.”

Trump’s lawyer in the case, William Bock, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment, sent after regular business hours on Friday.

Evers also noted that Rudolph Giuliani’s law license was suspended temporarily in New York and Washington, D.C., for pushing false claims of voter fraud on behalf of the former president.

Wisconsin’s demand for attorneys fees has been moving slowly since Trump’s case failed. In July, Trump filed a response complaining about the language Evers had used to describe the lawsuit, accusing the governor of using “inflammatory adjectives” like “outrageous” and “baseless” to describe the lawsuit.

The clash is part of the legal fallout from dozens of failed lawsuits by Trump and his supporters seeking to reverse his loss to President Joe Biden by trying to nullify millions of votes in swing states. Many of the suits were based on debunked conspiracy theories.

Evers is seeking $145,000 from Trump to cover the legal expenses the state spent fighting the suit, which aimed to toss out Wisconsin’s 3.3 million votes. Wisconsin is also asking for $106,000 from Powell, who filed a separate long-shot lawsuit to overturn the election result in several swing states.

The judge who ruled against Powell in Michigan this week said the case was an abuse of the courts intended to deceive the American people. Evers argued the judge should conclude that Trump simply didn’t take the case seriously — another abuse of the courts.

“More than eight months ago, former-President Trump filed this lawsuit in an audacious attempt to overrule the will of the voters by fiat,” the Democrat said in the filing. “He sought unprecedented relief, and his team pressed the case in a slapdash manner incommensurate with the gravity of the subject matter.”

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