Sidney Powell is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. At least that’s what her lawyers are saying.
Or is it?
My fellow UNC alum (BA, JD) and on-again, off-again attorney for President Trump could be delusional, based on filings her attorneys made this week in the $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems filed against her.
Or she isn’t really delusional, but instead she believes some pretty weird, wild stuff.
The filing says of Powell’s statements — suggesting election fraud may have stolen the 2020 election from Donald Trump — "reasonable people would not accept such statements as true but (would) view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process."
Reasonable people wouldn’t accept them as true?
Powell’s legal team is in a tough spot. If she didn’t defame the voting companies, then was she presenting unverified information as evidence in courts? Either way signals trouble.*
Dominion went after Powell and a host of other Trump proxies and sympathetic media outlets who said, among other things, the company’s election technology switched Trump votes to Joe Biden’s column, giving Biden illegitimate majorities in enough close states to reverse the results.
Dominion’s lawyers say the allegations — amplified without skepticism on many conservative media outlets — were false, damaging the company’s reputation as an honest vendor of election technology. Costing the company millions of dollars in contracts. The people spreading the conspiracies also knew they were wrong but used the notoriety they got to make money.
Along with Smartmatic, another voting tech vendor accused of malfeasance, Dominion sent cease-and-desist letters to the media “enablers,” including Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network. Fox fired longtime anchor and conspiracy monger Lou Dobbs, who regularly had Powell on his Fox Business Network show.
Newsmax posted a painful disclaimer.
When MyPillow.com CEO Mike Lindell bought three hours of time on OANN to lay out his conspiracy theories, the network opened the video with a 45-second video, essentially saying, “you can ignore this. It’s his opinion. We don’t endorse it. Nothing to see here.”
“(L)egal opinions are not grounds for defamation. … Ms. Powell is not backing down or retracting her previous statements concerning Dominion. Dominion’s case lacks legal merit and should be dismissed in its entirety,” attorney Howard Kleinhendler said in the post.
No, she can’t be sued for having a legal opinion. But she’s arguing that her opinion is based on facts that should be presented as evidence. The brief Powell’s lawyers filed cites a 270-page document posted on her website titled, “READ IT: SIDNEY POWELL BINDER OF ELECTION FRAUD EVIDENCE.”
Powell’s team wants the courts to redefine defamation law, conflating personal opinions — which can’t defame — with refutable facts, aka evidence — which can. Pick a standard: opinion or fact.
CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers explains:
Statements like "President Trump was the better candidate," or "I don't trust voting machines" express opinions. Statements that "up to 7 million votes were switched from President Donald Trump to Biden via rigged election software," or that Dominion is tied to former Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, on the other hand, are factual in nature because they are capable of being proven or disproven with evidence. Factual statements, when false and when made with knowledge or recklessness as to their falsity, can be the basis for a defamation claim.
As the editors of The Dispatch point out in a recent podcast, a lot of Trump voters, and Republicans generally, continue to believe either Trump really won, or there were enough problems with the election to cast doubt over Biden’s victory. The media sources they trust haven’t discredited Powell. They’ve largely ignored her, or continued to use her as an expert.
A search of the Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN websites reveal nothing about Powell’s latest filing. On Fox’s “Special Report,” Bret Baier did a brief segment on the matter. But the network’s opinion hosts have been silent.
Meantime, OANN’s most recent article quoting Powell, published March 15 on unresolved court cases, has her presenting information as fact, not opinion.
Powell alleged there was evidence of electronic manipulation of votes, which resulted in thousands of ballots not being counted in multiple states.
In this case it requires forensic evaluations of the machines and looking at all of the paper ballots, we already know that’s not going to match up,” explained the attorney. “There were counterfeit ballots … if you just keep running the same counterfeit bill through the same counting machine, you’re going to get the same result.
With so many viewers relying on ideological media as their primary information sources, silence on the right fuels confusion and distrust.
*Powell’s lawyers also argue the case should be dismissed or moved to a federal court in Texas. If it’s dismissed, this all goes away.
Happy belated 72nd birthday to the Basher, Nick Lowe!
And happy 76th to the Dawg, David Grisman! (I saw this quintet on this tour. Good times.) Let’s bookend with an actual Johnny Carson clip.