Michigan Asks for $11K in Legal Fees for Defending State in Donald Trump Election Suit

A federal judge considering whether to order sanctions against some of former President Donald Trump's lawyers spent hours Monday drilling into details about an unsuccessful lawsuit that challenged Michigan's 2020 election results.

Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, also a Democrat, are asking a federal court that state receive at least $11,000 in legal fees relating to the former president's unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the state's 2020 presidential election results.

The suit claiming widespread voter fraud was dropped after a judge found nothing but "speculation and conjecture" that votes for Trump were somehow destroyed or switched to votes for Joe Biden, who won Michigan by a 2.8 percent margin.

Whitmer and the city of Detroit now want the plaintiffs and attorneys including Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood punished for what they call frivolous claims. It's the first effort seeking to enact fines or sanctions in the case.

Detroit is requesting that the lawyers face disciplinary hearings in the states where they practice. The city is also asking the judge to disgorge any money the lawyers may have raised through post-election fundraising.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, continue below.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Attorney Sidney Powell speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election, inside the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump, who has not been seen publicly in several days, continues to push baseless claims about election fraud and dispute the results of the 2020 United States presidential election. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

"It was never about winning on the merits of the claims, but rather (the) purpose was to undermine the integrity of the election results and the people's trust in the electoral process and in government," the attorney general's office said in a court filing.

U.S. District Judge Linda Parker quickly learned Monday that Powell and Howard Kleinhendler drafted the lawsuit last fall, though subsequent court action was handled by Michigan-based lawyers.

Wood's name was on the lawsuit. But he insisted he had no role other than to tell Powell that he would be available if the parties needed a seasoned litigator.

"I didn't do anything in Michigan," Wood told the judge during a Zoom hearing that at times attracted more than 5,000 people watching the video conference.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Indeed, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well, and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six Republican voters who wanted Parker to decertify Michigan's election results and impound voting machines. Parker declined in December, calling the request "stunning in its scope and breathtaking in its reach."

Don Campbell, an attorney representing Powell and other lawyers, said there was plenty of legal precedent to go to federal court and challenge the performance of an election. He said the lawyers can't be hit with sanctions simply because an opinion submitted through an expert's affidavit might be wrong.

The hearing got tense as lawyers spoke over each other. The court reporter, Andrea Wabeke, got frustrated, pleading with them to "please stop interrupting."

"We had a good faith basis," Kleinhendler said of an affidavit that alleged thousands of new ballots suddenly turned up in Detroit.

In New York, Rudy Giuliani has been suspended from practicing law because he made false statements while trying to get courts to overturn Trump's election loss.

FILE - In this April 30, 2021, file photo, pro-Trump attorney L. Lin Wood, a candidate for chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, speaks to attendees of the Richland County GOP convention in Columbia, S.C. A federal judge is considering whether to order financial penalties or other sanctions against some of former President Donald Trump's lawyers, including Wood, who signed onto a lawsuit last year challenging Michigan's election results. Meg Kinnard, File/AP Photo