politics

Dominion Voting Systems Brings $1.3 Billion Defamation Suit Against Ex-Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
  • Dominion Voting Systems said Sidney Powell's false and outlandish claims about fraud in the 2020 election "caused unprecedented harm."
  • The suit says the company issued Powell a letter formally warning her to stop lying about the company, and cited a tweet that she posted shortly afterward refusing to do so.
  • The suit is the first in an expected flurry of high-priced litigation against conspiracy theorists and right-wing media organizations that have spread baseless falsehoods about Trump's defeat in November's election.

Dominion Voting Systems on Friday brought a $1.3 billion defamation suit against the conservative lawyer Sidney Powell, alleging that her false and outlandish claims about fraud in the 2020 election "caused unprecedented harm."

The suit is the first in an expected flurry of high-priced litigation against prominent conspiracy theorists and right-wing media organizations that have spread baseless falsehoods about President Donald Trump's defeat in November's election.

It comes as the nation continues to reckon with the aftermath of Wednesday's deadly insurrection by a mob of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Dominion, the supplier of voting machines to Georgia and other states and counties, brought the suit in the U.S. District Court in Washington. The company warned last month that it would bring defamation suits against those trumpeting conspiracy theories about its voting machines, including Fox News and major media personalities.

Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The attorney, a former member of Trump's legal team, has falsely claimed among other things that Dominion was somehow created by the deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to rig the 2020 contest. Chavez died in 2013.

"As a result of the defamatory falsehoods peddled by Powell — in concert with likeminded allies and media outlets who were determined to promote a false preconceived narrative — Dominion's founder, Dominion's employees, Georgia's governor, and Georgia's secretary of state have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered enormous harm," Dominion attorney Thomas Clare said in the 124-page lawsuit.

The suit says the company issued Powell a letter formally warning her to stop lying about the company, and cited a tweet that she posted shortly afterward refusing to do so.

"Powell doubled down, tweeting to her 1.2 million Twitter followers that she heard that '#Dominion' had written to her and that, although she had not even seen Dominion's letter yet, she was 'retracting nothing' because '[w]e have #evidence' and 'They are #fraud masters!'," the company said.

Dominion asked the court to award it at least $651,735,000 in compensatory damages and the same amount in punitive damages, in addition to paying for the expenses it incurred filing the litigation. The suit lists "Defending the Republic, Inc.," a company Powell has used for fundraising purposes, as a defendant alongside Powell.

Powell, L. Lin Wood and Brannon Castleberry are the directors of Defending the Republic.

Powell and Wood, another conspiracy theorist lawyer, held a joint "Stop the Steal" rally in Georgia in December in which they spread conspiracy theories about the election. Wood frequently tweeted conspiracy theories about Chief Justice John Roberts and the election until he was banned from the platform this week.

Powell, a former federal prosecutor, and Wood, had filed lawsuits in district courts in Georgia and Michigan seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election. All of the lawsuits have been dismissed.

"Powell and Wood filed their election lawsuits — which never had a chance of reversing the results of the election — with the obvious and cynical purpose of creating court documents they could post on their fundraising websites and tout as 'evidence' during their media campaign," the Dominion lawsuit says.

It also accuses the attorneys of seeking "to raise funds and their public profiles, and to ingratiate themselves to Donald Trump for additional benefits and opportunities that they expected to receive as a result of their association with him."

Wood did not immediately return a request for comment.

The suit notes that Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security advisor and Powell's client, "the same day that Powell filed her election lawsuit in Georgia." Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

The president's legal team, which also sought to reverse Biden's victory, ultimately distanced itself from Powell. Attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis released a statement in November saying Powell was "practicing law on her own."

But Trump has continued to be supportive of the lawyer, and as recently as December was considering appointing the conspiracy theorist to investigate his allegations of election fraud, The New York Times reported.

On Thursday, facing potential criminal exposure over his comments to supporters before they rampaged through the Capitol, the president finally conceded defeat to Biden.

Other lawsuits are expected shortly.

In December, Dominion issued at least 21 letters to those it was targeting for defamation suits. The recipients of those letters included the White House; Fox News and its hosts Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo; and the news outlets Newsmax, One America News Network and Epoch Times.

At the time, Fox noted that it had aired segments noting that Powell had failed to produce evidence for its claims.

"She never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of polite requests," host Tucker Carlson said in one of the segments.

Dominion attorney Clare, speaking to reporters after the suit was filed, suggested that Trump himself could be sued.

"We have not ruled anyone out. We are looking very deliberately at the statements and actions of everyone," Clare said when asked if the president could be a target.

Trump could also face federal charges related to his comments on Wednesday to supporters gathered to protest the election, in which he called on them to "fight." Giuliani at the rally suggested "trial by combat."

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, asked if Trump could be prosecuted, said Thursday that "anyone who had a role and where the evidence fits a crime" could be. The New York Times earlier reported that Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, warned Trump he could face criminal charges for inciting the riot.

In a statement Friday, Dominion CEO John Poulos tied the D.C. riot to Powell's actions. "The recent attacks on the democratic process are not singular or isolated events," he said. "They are the result of a deliberate and malicious campaign of lies over many months."

"Sidney Powell and others created and disseminated these lies, assisted and amplified by a range of media platforms," he added.

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