from the kraken-released,-presumed-searching-for-competent-representation dept
We write a lot about defamation suits here at Techdirt. Most of what we cover are baseless lawsuits — lawsuits featuring powerful people “punching down” in hopes of silencing critics.
But this case is on a more equitable level. As the election results rolled in last November, the Trump Administration maintained the election had been “stolen.” The fantasies of the lame duck were encouraged and enabled by lawyers who should have known better. This includes Rudy Giuliani — self-proclaimed 9/11 hero and all-around evidence that satire is dead.
One of Trump’s lawyers went on the warpath. Sidney Powell — one-time legal counsel to the President — sued as early and often as possible, hoping to get key election results thrown out. The evidence the so-called “Kraken” brought with her wasn’t really evidence of anything. It made “hearsay and conjecture” seem like a solid basis for a lawsuit. What Powell brought with her was a combination of sovereign citizen fanfic and anthropomorphized YouTube videos.
Trump cut ties with Powell — perhaps considering her too far out there for even his OAN-enabled fever dreams. She went on without him, ensuring taxpayers would keep paying to defend the Republic against wild fantasies of widespread voter fraud and election machinery interference.
Powell targeted Dominion Voting Systems early and often, apparently only because they were deployed in Georgia — a state Trump lost that he did not expect to lose. Georgia has a problem with election security, but for years, elected officials have chosen to attack Democrats and bury negative info rather than address these problems.
Powell’s lawsuits aren’t going to make voting in Georgia any more secure. But they may carve some holes in Powell’s bank accounts. Dominion Voting Systems isn’t happy with Powell’s assertions about its products. After weeks of being publicly reamed by Trump and his litigious supporters, Dominion is fighting back.
Taking an action long promised to be “imminent,” Dominion Voting Systems has sued right-wing lawyer Sidney Powell. The company seeks damages to the tune of more than $1.3 billion for “wild” and “demonstrably false” allegations against the company that Powell made through “conspiracy theorists, con artists, armchair ‘experts,’ and anonymous sources.”
“During a Washington, D.C. press conference, a Georgia political rally, and a media blitz, Powell falsely claimed that Dominion had rigged the election, that Dominion was created in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chávez, and that Dominion bribed Georgia officials for a no-bid contract,” the 124-page complaint states.
Dominion is a public entity. That raises the bar for successfully alleging defamation. Sidney Powell is a public figure as well, which evens things out a bit. And some of her accusations were made outside of a courtroom, where immunity for statements made during litigation doesn’t apply. Powell was given a chance to retract her allegedly defamatory statements but refused to do so. And now it’s a lawsuit [PDF].
As Dominion points out, many of the “arguments” made in court were aired publicly by Powell during press conferences and political rallies. There’s no immunity for these accusations — ones Dominion says have no basis in reality.
Powell’s wild accusations are demonstrably false. Far from being created in Venezuela to rig elections for a now-deceased Venezuelan dictator, Dominion was founded in Toronto for the purpose of creating a fully auditable paper-based vote system that would empower people with disabilities to vote independently on verifiable paper ballots. As it grew, Dominion developed technology to solve many of the technical and voter intent issues that came to light as a result of the 2000 Presidential Election. Its systems are certified under standards promulgated by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”), reviewed and tested by independent testing laboratories accredited by the EAC, and were designed to be auditable and include a paper ballot backup to verify results. Since its founding, Dominion has been chosen by thousands of election officials throughout the United States to provide the technology to effectively administer transparent and fully auditable elections.
When you don’t have the facts, you pound the table. Powell’s fists must be pretty raw.
When respected Georgia Republicans disproved Powell’s false accusations by announcing that Georgia’s paper ballot recount had verified the accuracy of Dominion’s vote counts, Powell sought to discredit them by falsely accusing Dominion of paying kickbacks to them and their families in return for a no-bid contract. The only “evidence” Powell ever put forward to support that false accusation was a doctored certificate from the Georgia Secretary of State. Powell has insinuated that the fact that the certificate is undated is suspicious. In reality, the authentic certificate is dated and is publicly available on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website…
If you don’t want your fists bruised and your ass sued, maybe try to secure some real evidence before holding press conferences and filing lawsuits.
Powell’s “evidence” included declarations from a motley crew of conspiracy theorists, con artists, armchair “experts,” and anonymous sources who were judicially determined to be “wholly unreliable.”
And don’t say stuff like this in public:
Powell deliberately lied about having a video of Dominion’s founder saying he could “change a million votes, no problem at all.” Powell has never produced that recording because it does not exist.
Sidney Powell will once again be asked to explain herself by federal court judges. But this time, she’ll be doing it as a defendant. A smarter conspiracy theorist may have confined their baseless claims to legal filings, where they would be shielded by immunity. But the “Kraken” decided she needed to rouse the rabble periodically. And now she could be on the hook for millions of dollars in damages. (Dominion is asking for $651 million, but it seems unlikely this will be the judgment amount, even if the company wins handily.)
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to be concerned about election security and foreign interference in elections. Powell’s claims, however, aren’t legitimate. They’re fantasies constructed by people who should never be relied on as witnesses, much less “expert” ones. Powell’s decision to pander to Trump and amplify baseless allegations made by internet detritus looks like it’s going to come back to hurt her.
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