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Trump Lawyer Cleta Mitchell Targeted in Group’s Ethics Complaint

March 7, 2022, 7:56 PM

Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer who helped former President Donald Trump try to overturn the 2020 election, faces an ethics complaint from a group that Monday said it’s seeking disciplinary actions including disbarment.

Mitchell should be investigated for making false statements and assisting Trump in criminal and fraudulent behavior, according to the complaint filed with the D.C. Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility, the lawyer regulatory body in Washington.

“Ms. Mitchell abused her place of trust and played a significant role in fomenting discord, violence, and death, all through spreading lies and misinformation,” said the complaint written by Michael Teter, managing director of the new group called The 65 Project.

Mitchell, a former Foley & Lardner partner, is one of the first 10 lawyers being targeted by the group, which said it is going after attorneys who “supported sabotaging legitimate election results.” Democratic consultants such as David Brock, who founded Media Matters for America, are advising The 65 Project.

Mitchell joined Trump on a Jan. 2, 2021 phone call in which he asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes that could overturn the 2020 election. Mitchell resigned days after the call from Foley & Lardner and later blamed “leftist groups” for a “massive pressure campaign” that led to her departure.

An attempt to contact Mitchell through her Election Integrity Network was not immediately returned.

Lawyer disciplinary body regulations vary by state but they generally don’t require investigations based on ethics complaints. Axios first reported The 65 Project’s plans to target lawyers who pursued election fraud lawsuits or represented Trump in his push to overturn the election.

The 65 Project filed a separate ethics complaint against Paul MacNeal Davis, who was fired from his in-house counsel job by Goosehead Insurance after he livestreamed his presence at the U.S. Capitol the day of the Jan. 6 riot.

Davis later filed a complaint alleging every member of Congress and then-President-Elect Joe Biden “were not legitimately elected.” The case was later withdrawn, but Davis filed a second, similar lawsuit that eventually led to 25 lawyers making appearances for various defendants.

The complaint asks the State Bar of Texas’ Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel to discipline Davis for repeatedly filing frivolous claims, abusing the litigation process, and engaging in misconduct. The complaint notes Davis has not been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot.

“Mr. Davis made clear that he has no regrets for abusing the court system in such frivolous ways for the purposes of subverting the legitimate results of American elections,” the ethics complaint reads. “That demonstrates a greater likelihood that he will repeat similar efforts.”

An email sent to an address filed for Davis in one of his lawsuits was not immediately returned. But Axios reported that Davis called the effort a “desperate attempt by leftist hacks and mercenaries” to “neutralize anyone on the right with the ability to stand in the way of the left’s efforts.”

A group of lawyers the 65 Project called part of Trump’s “inner circle” were also hit with ethics complaints. They include Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn and Joseph diGenova. It also filed complaints against two lawyers it said participated in the Jan. 6 riot, including Davis and William Calhoun.

The group filed complaints against William Carver and Daryl Moody in Georgia and Andrew Hitt and Jim Troupis in Wisconsin, alleging they fraudulently claimed to be presidential electors or helped Trump orchestrate a fake set of presidential electors.

The 65 Project takes its name from the 65 lawsuits it said were brought seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com