Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is asking former President Donald Trump and a GOP official who filed lawsuits challenging the state's presidential election results to pay at least $250,000 in legal fees to prevent state taxpayers from having to foot the legal costs the governor's office accrued defending against the lawsuits.
Evers, through his attorneys on Wednesday, filed motions in two cases in federal court brought by Trump and La Crosse County Republican Party Chairman William Feehan in the wake of the November presidential election.
Evers called on Trump and Feehan to pay $250,000 in fees, arguing the lawsuits the two Republicans filed were frivolous, based on scant evidence and wasted state taxpayer dollars in having to defend against them.
The money Evers is requesting would reimburse the governor's office for the amount accrued, while an additional sum would go to the law firm contracted to represent Evers.
"(Feehan) and his attorneys filed a meritless lawsuit built on inscrutable conspiracy theories and improper anonymous affidavits," Evers' attorney, Jeffrey Mandell, wrote. "Although Plaintiff's claims were bereft of legal or factual basis, the stakes were immense. Governor Tony Evers had no choice but to defend zealously against the claims and in the extraordinarily expedited timeframe of this litigation, to engage with Plaintiff's scattershot litigation tactics."
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Evers wants $106,000 from Feehan and $144,000 from Trump. Both cases challenging the election results were unsuccessful.
In December, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin Pamela Pepper dismissed the lawsuit brought by Feehan, who was represented by former Trump attorney Sidney Powell.
Feehan's lawsuit was based on discredited claims that deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, China and Iran hacked voting machines in Wisconsin and in other states. The lawsuit was also peppered with errors: It included as a plaintiff the name of GOP congressional candidate Derrick Van Orden, who said he was not involved; it referred to the "Wisconsin Board of State Canvassers," which does not exist; and it asked the court for 48 hours of security camera footage from the TCF Center, which is in Detroit.
In her order dismissing the case, Pepper said federal courts are simply not built to determine presidential winners.
"Federal judges do not appoint the president in this country," Pepper said at the time. "One wonders why the plaintiffs came to federal court and asked a federal judge to do so. After a week of sometimes odd and often harried litigation, the court is no closer to answering the 'why.' But this federal court has no authority or jurisdiction to grant the relief the ... plaintiff seeks."
Dominion Voting Systems, which manufacturers voting machines used across the U.S. and targeted by Powell and other Republicans who sought to overturn the presidential election results, filed a defamation suit in January against Powell seeking at least $1.3 billion for her "wild accusations" that the company rigged the presidential election for President Joe Biden. Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes.
In his filing seeking legal fees Wednesday, Mandell said the lawsuit was brought in bad faith in order to sow doubt about the election.
"(Feehan) and his attorneys should be held jointly responsible for prosecuting this untenable lawsuit," Mandell wrote. "There is no reason for Wisconsin taxpayers to bear the expense of this attempt to hijack the democratic process."
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up another lawsuit Trump filed in federal court in Milwaukee in early December challenging his loss in the state.
The suit alleged elections officials failed to abide by the rules for the election set forth by the Legislature and therefore "likely tainted more than 50,000 ballots," and asked the court to allow the Republican-controlled Legislature to determine a remedy. While the exact remedy is not clear in the lawsuit, such a remedy presumably included overturning Biden's win in the state.
The lawsuit challenged numerous aspects of the election it claims are unlawful, even though elections officials have repeatedly defended the legality of the election and officials largely operated under the same practices for elections they always do.
U.S. Federal Judge Brett Ludwig, who dismissed Trump's lawsuit, said during oral arguments Trump's case was unprecedented.
"If the relief that's been requested were granted, this would be a most remarkable proceeding and probably the most remarkable ruling in the history of this court or the federal judiciary," Ludwig said.
Mandell wrote that Wisconsin taxpayers should be made whole for having to foot the litigation costs for Trump's legal efforts.
"From its inception, through its haphazard prosecution, and until its ignominious conclusion, this case was wholly meritless," Mandell said. "Trump and his attorneys were either reckless or extremely negligent at every step of this litigation. Their actions imposed upon Wisconsin's taxpayers the expense of defending the state's election results and the decision made by the nearly 3.3 million Wisconsinites who turned out to vote.
While Evers wants Trump and Feehan to pay $250,000, other defendants in the suit brought by Trump, such as the cities of Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha, could also seek costs.
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