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Defendant in Clinton RICO Case Says Sanctions Are ‘Especially Appropriate’ Because Trump Is a ‘Former President and Prominent Public Figure’

Two photos show Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton attended a Clinton Global Initiative meeting on Sept. 20, 2022 in New York City. Former President Donald Trump spoke at a rally on Sept. 23, 2022 in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Attorneys for a man sued by Donald Trump as part of a sprawling yet scuttled racketeering lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and several others has reasserted a request for sanctions in the matter.

In a late Wednesday filing, attorneys for Charles Halliday Dolan Jr., a defendant in the since-dismissed case against Trump’s real and perceived 2016 political foes, reasserted that Trump’s lawsuit was littered with “unsupported” factual assertions and “objectively unreasonable” legal theories.

Trump’s attorneys at one point asserted that Dolan was a former chairperson of the Democratic National Committee. He wasn’t. Trump’s attorneys also indicated Dolan lived in New York. Dolan averred that he has lived in Virginia since 1986.

Dolan quipped in a motion for sanctions filed Sept. 21 that his “resume is available online.”

His reply, filed Wednesday, rubbished Trump’s claim that “Charles Dolan is an incredibly common name” and, thus, that the mistake as to his residence was excusable.

Dolan’s reply also slams Trump’s attorneys for relying on news articles from organizations Trump himself has called “fake”:

Plaintiff nevertheless bizarrely argues as to their residence search that “Charles Dolan is an incredibly common name,” and Plaintiff’s counsel made a reasonable inquiry because he used traditional search methods and news articles. Mr. Dolan had already submitted a declaration of Virginia residence and has lived in Virginia since 1986, as set forth in the declaration. Reading the motions and pleadings filed by Mr. Dolan would have been sufficient, but any basic skip-locate or background check service would have revealed this fact. If Dolan were that common a name, Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s counsel would not have known if they had even sued the right Dolan. Also, new [sic ‘news’] articles, cited by Plaintiff, are not a basis on which to make allegations in a lawsuit (Plaintiff himself has derided CNN and other news outlets as fake news). Plaintiff’s and Plaintiff’s counsel’s failure even to review filings in their own lawsuit confirms the frivolous nature of Plaintiff’s lawsuit and a lack of diligence and reasonable inquiry.

Trump’s attorneys stated in an Oct. 5 reply to Dolan’s sanctions motion that many of their claims were lifted from Special Counsel John Durham’s criminal case against Russian information analyst Igor Danchenko. Thus, Trump’s lawyers asserted that the information presented passed the relevant degree of investigatory prowess necessary for a civil lawsuit in federal court.

The Danchenko case reached a jury this week and is expected to wrap up around Oct. 21. It had not even come close to reaching a judgment when Trump filed his RICO case in March.

Durham has accused Danchenko of lying to the FBI during its “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into whether Trump or his allies had colluded with Russian attempts to meddle with the 2016 election. Danchenko has also been accused of being a primary source of information for the debunked Steele Dossier. Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not conclude that there was a conspiracy between Trump and his echelon and Russia,  but he did conclude Russia attempted to interfere with the election.

Trump’s lawsuit alleged that Dolan was connected to Danchenko and thus played some role in feeding bad information about Trump — including rumors of “salacious sexual activity” — for inclusion in the since-rubbished Steele Dossier. It also accused Dolan of “intimate ties” to the Clintons and the Democratic Party because he served as “state chairman of former President Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, and [] an advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign.” Dolan also was appointed by Clinton “to two four-year terms on an advisory commission at the U.S. State Department,” court papers allege.

Dolan replied on Wednesday by reasserting that Trump’s RICO “action was brought for an improper purpose of trying to settle political scores,” which he said also merited sanctions.

Dolan also argued at length that Trump’s attorneys stretched or attenuated the allegations contained in the Danchenko indictment beyond the pale.

“[T]he Indictment does not say what Plaintiff’s counsel says it does,” Dolan’s reply brief states. “The Court observed in page 27 of its Opinion that Plaintiff places misleading citations concerning the case law it relies upon, but Plaintiff also misleads the Court with its references to the Danchenko Indictment in respect of Dolan.”


Among those “directly sourced allegations” was that Danchenko and Dolan wanted to “create a ‘dossier’ to smear Donald J. Trump and to disseminate false accusations to the media.” Am. Compl. At ¶96(c) and Plaintiff’s Opposition to Sanctions at 6, bullet point 3. Plaintiff and his counsel must be relying on some alternate version of the Indictment, because the actual Indictment, even the portions they cite, makes no such allegation. Id. Plaintiff in its Opposition to Sanctions on page 6 at bullet point 3 refers to the Indictment at ¶23 but that paragraph simply confirms that Dolan and Danchenko were business associates networking on business related to Russia.

Plaintiff’s counsel repeatedly argues that, based on such paragraph 23, the Indictment supports an allegation that Dolan agreed to engage in a smear campaign to create a dossier and spread false information, but then cites language that supports that Dolan and Danchenko exchanged businesss information. Plaintiff’s Opposition to Sanctions at 6, bullet point 3. The Indictment supports no such allegation of conspiracy or agreement to smear Mr. Trump and spread false rumors in the media. The Indictment suggests that Dolan and Danchenko were networking[.]

Dolan’s reply then cites and quotes this specific paragraph in the Danchenko indictment:

In or about late April 2016, Danchenko and [Mr. Dolan] engaged in discussions regarding potential business collaboration between PR Firm-1 and U.K. Investigative Firm-1 on issues relating to Russia. These discussions reflected that Danchenko and PR Executive-1 had exchanged information regarding each other’s backgrounds and professional activities, including Danchenko’s work for U.K. Investigative Firm-1 and U.K. Person-1.

His argument continued:

There is absolutely nothing in this paragraph or in the Danchenko Indictment to support any conspiracy or agreement to “create a ‘dossier’ to smear Donald J. Trump and to disseminate the false accusations to the media.” Rumors of sexual activity by Plaintiff in Russia garnered publicity but there is no factual basis or evidence to attribute those rumors to Mr. Dolan. Plaintiff injects his own inaccurate alternative facts into the discussion of the Danchenko Indictment. This is yet another example of Plaintiff and his counsel asserting unsupported and indefensible positions with ferocious tenacity.

Dolan further reasserted that there is “no basis” to connect him with rumors of sexual activity embedded in the Steele Dossier:

Plaintiff with irritating tenacity and no evidence has maintained that Mr. Dolan was the source of a rumor of salacious sexual activity involving Mr. Trump. Plaintiff and his counsel appear to have relied on the Danchenko Indictment as a basis to propound this allegation, but the indictment makes no such allegation. Again, there is no evidence or support for citing Mr. Dolan as a source of this rumor.

Dolan then said Trump’s attorneys did nothing but “miscite and misconstrue” the Danchenko indictment in an “attempt to smear Dolan.”

He then slammed the Danchenko indictment itself as a “flimsy and inappropriate basis to make allegations in a civil lawsuit.” Citing case law, Dolan noted that “[i]ndictments cannot be considered as evidence . . . especially in a civil case . . . and even more so where the defendant is not the person indicted.” That’s because indictments contain accusations, not proven facts.

The Dolan document then returned to the issue of political vendettas — which he said were not redressable in the courts in the fashion contemplated by Trump. Plus, he said, Trump’s attorneys were flatly wrong on the law by asserting that special statute of limitation rules should apply to Trump’s case.

“President Trump’s attorneys, in arguing for his claims, paint him as a victim while at the same time seeking special rules and benefits that would apply only to him,” Dolan’s counsel wrote.

They then penned this coup de grace as part of an argument that sanctions are “especially appropriate precisely because” Trump is a “former president and prominent public figure”:

Donald Trump and his lawyers have the same rights as other litigants and lawyers, but also the same obligation to play by the rules. Plaintiff asks for special rules because he is Donald Trump, when in fact as a former President he is bound by the same rules as everyone else, to the same extent as everyone else. Donald Trump is entitled to fight his political fights in the political arena, sling mud on people on social media, and pursue vendettas online, but once he is in court, the rules of court apply. Because the rules apply to President Trump just the same as everyone else, sanctions are appropriate here.

Charles Dolan had nothing to do with any smear campaign. There is no basis for him to have been dragged into this lawsuit, or into a court in Florida. It is Mr. Dolan who has been smeared and lost potential business and reputation, as a result of this lawsuit.

Dolan also noted on Wednesday that he cannot be properly sued in Florida, where Trump’s attorneys filed the RICO case, because he has no contacts to any forum in that jurisdiction.

A federal judge tossed Trump’s lawsuit in spectacular fashion, but the ex-president’s attorneys have taken initial steps toward filing an appeal.

The entire reply brief is here.

[Editor’s note: some legal citations have been omitted from quotes in this piece.]

[Photo of Clinton by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Clinton Global Initiative; photo of Trump by Allison Joyce/Getty Images.]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.