U.S. judge declines to sanction Trump campaign over alleged 'disinformation' tactic

Jan Wolfe

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) - A federal judge in Michigan has declined to reprimand President Donald Trump's campaign for submitting a court document that opposing lawyers said was purposefully misleading.

In a four-page order issued on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff said she would not strike the disputed document from the court record. Lawyers for the city of Detroit had asked Neff to strike the document as a way of sanctioning Trump's campaign.

"While we are disappointed that sanctions were not awarded, this is only one of many cases filed in Michigan, and we do expect these lawyers to be sanctioned by some courts for their repeated frivolous lawsuits," David Fink, a lawyer for the city of Detroit, said in a statement.

Trump’s campaign on Nov. 19 said it was voluntarily dropping a lawsuit contesting Michigan’s election results because election officials in Wayne County “met and declined to certify the results of the presidential election.”

In fact, Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers on Nov. 17 refused at first to certify the results, but then reversed themselves after a public outcry.

Detroit’s lawyers said on Nov. 19 that the campaign included “impertinent and false language” in the filing. They did not request a monetary penalty, but said Neff had “the authority to strike materials from the record as a sanction.”

Federal law allows Trump’s lawyers to “voluntarily dismiss their claims, but it does not allow them to use a Notice of Dismissal to spread disinformation,” according to Detroit’s motion.

Mark “Thor” Hearne, the Trump campaign lawyer who submitted the document, has said the sanctions request was meritless and an attempt to score political points.

Hearne argued affidavits attached to his filing accurately explained the facts to the judge.

Neff provided little explanation for why she did not think the sanction was warranted.

"With the filing of its motion, the City of Detroit’s factual position is part of the court record, and the Court, in its discretion, declines to impose the requested sanction," Neff wrote.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Tom Brown)