A lawyer representing former President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial sued him last year for claiming mail-in ballots were rife with fraud despite having “no evidence” to support such assertions.
The name and signature of Michael T. van der Veen, a personal injury attorney based in Philadelphia, appeared on Trump’s pretrial legal brief last week, along with lawyers Brian Castor Jr. and David Schoen.
Last year, van der Veen represented Melvin Johnakin ― then an independent candidate for a U.S. House seat representing part of Philadelphia ― in a lawsuit against Trump and Louis DeJoy, the U.S. postmaster general.
In his lawsuit, filed in August in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Johnakin alleged Trump’s rhetoric against mail-in voting and DeJoy’s apparent efforts to impede mail processing and delivery infringed on his and others’ right to vote.
“These actions follow the appointment of DeJoy, a Republican Party and Trump campaign megadonor, in May 2020 as Postmaster General and his assumption of the office on or about June 16, 2020,” van der Veen wrote in the complaint.
“These actions also arise in an environment subject to repeated claims by President Donald J. Trump that voting by mail is ripe with fraud, despite having no evidence in support of these claims,” he added, “and lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign to stop mail-in voting in states such as Nevada and Pennsylvania.”
Johnakin sought a ruling that would require Trump and DeJoy to “take all necessary steps to ensure that absentee and other mail-in ballots are delivered to election officials in a timely manner.” The suit was settled in late November. DeJoy has so far remained postmaster general under the Biden administration.
In their legal brief filed last week, van der Veen and Trump’s other defense attorneys argued in part that the First Amendment guarantees Trump the right to “address public controversies such as voting irregularities.”
Van der Veen’s role in last year’s lawsuit was first resurfaced by The Washington Post. The lawyer did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Castor, a former Pennsylvania prosecutor, joined Trump’s defense team in January after being hired by van der Veen’s law firm the previous month. Schoen, Trump’s other impeachment attorney, is based in Atlanta.
Both Castor and Schoen made arguments during the first day of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial Tuesday. Van der Veen did not, and it’s unclear whether he was present.
The defense team’s performance drew criticism and mockery from both Democrats and Republicans for its at times rambling and barely coherent message. Trump was reportedly furious over his lawyers’ presentation.