Trump adds last-minute impeachment lawyer who previously sued him for spreading voter fraud lies

Michael T. van der Veen, now defending Trump in his impeachment trial, had said Trump had “no evidence” of fraud

By Jon Skolnik
February 12, 2021 2:02PM (UTC)
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U.S. President Donald Trump reacts to a question during a news conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

As Donald Trump's lawyers are set to present their defense of the former president against the charge of inciting an insurrection during his second impeachment trial, he added a last-minute attorney who previously sued him for spreading baseless claims about voter fraud. 

According to The Washington Post, Pennsylvania lawyer Michael T. van der Veen, now representing Trump in his second impeachment trial, sued the former president late last year for making "repeated claims" that mail-in voting was riddled with fraud.

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Van der Veen –– co-founder of Philadelphia-based personal injury law firm van der Veen, O'Neill, Hartshorn and Levin –– brought the suit in August of last year, alleging that the former president's attacks on the U.S. Postal Service had "no evidence" to bear. In December, van der Veen's firm brought on Pennsylvania-based attorney Bruce Castor, who was just hired by Trump's impeachment team last month. Van der Veen's name now appears in Trump's impeachment filings alongside those of Bruce Castor and David Shoen, an Atlanta-based lawyer who Trump scrambled to recruit just last week.

Back in August, however, van der Veen's name had appeared on a document strikingly different in nature.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported, van der Veen sued Trump, the U.S. Postal Service, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on behalf of their independent client, Melvin Johnakin. Taking aim at Trump's moves to delegitimize the election system, the lawsuit's complaint stated: "These actions...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, and lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign to stop mail-in voting in states such as Nevada and Pennsylvania."

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The suit accused the Postal Service –– and namely Postmaster General DeJoy –– of instituting a series of operational changes that undercut the Postal Service's ability to process mail-in-ballots. These changes included "reducing staff hours, prohibiting overtime, removing hundreds of high-volume mail-processing machines from facilities across the country and removing mailboxes in urban areas with high concentrations of minority, low income and Democratic voters." 

Van der Veen, who tarred Postmaster General DeJoy in the suit as a "Republican Party and Trump campaign megadonor," had reportedly circulated an email to Pennsylvania voters arguing that state Republicans were "running a campaign to unfairly and illegally intimidate voters." Another email of van der Veen's emphasized Trump's corrosive influence on the integrity of the election system. "Donald Trump doesn't want you to be able to vote," he claimed, "It's time to stand up for what's right."

Interestingly, van der Veen's website continues to advertise itself in the spirit of last summer's lawsuit. "To exercise the fundamental right to vote," it reads, "many voters have and will utilize all available means to vote by mail rather than in person at a polling place. Advanced planning and proactive measures will be necessary to ensure that voters have sufficient access to vote by mail to preserve and protect the essential right to vote and prevent large-scale disenfranchisement." 

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A past client of van der Veen, Justin Hiemstra, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the Philadelphia-based lawyer had regarded Trump as a "f***ing crook" two years ago, a charge the attorney strongly denied. "He definitely came off as fairly anti-Trump in the context that I knew him," Hiemstra insisted

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-PA, casted doubt on whether Trump even knows van der Veen opposed him. "...Since he generally demands total loyalty," Scanlon noted, "It does seem a little out of character for the former president to embrace someone who so recently sued him."


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bruce Castor David Shoen Dejoy Impeachment Michael T. Van Der Veen Postal Service Voter Fraud