Cyber Ninjas says it has received $5.7 million in private donations to fund the Arizona ballot audit

maricopa county recount arizona
Cyber Ninjas contractors examine and recount Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election.

  • Cyber Ninjas leads the widely-criticized election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona.
  • It said it has received $5.7 million in donations toward the audit.
  • Most of the funds come from prominent Trump supporters such as Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The company contracted to audit the 2020 presidential election result in Arizona’s Maricopa County has said that it had received $5.7 million from pro-Trump groups toward the effort, according to multiple reports.

Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan announced the figures on Wednesday following an extensive request for documentation from Congress’ Oversight and Reform Committee.

The ballot audit has run since April 22 after Arizona’s GOP-led Senate contracted the cybersecurity company for a nominal taxpayer-paid fee of $150,000.

However, the company – which had no prior experience in election audits – was also allowed to collect donations toward the effort.

The Arizona Republic reporter Jen Fifeld tweeted a breakdown of the figures, which come largely from right-wing groups:

  • The largest named donor – The America Project with $3,250,000 – is led by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who met with Trump and the conspiracy-theorist lawyer Sidney Powell to plot contesting the result last December, The Washington Post reported.
  • Byrne has previously described the 2020 election as “rigged” and stated his intention to fund “cybersleuths” by the end of November.
  • America’s Future, which was listed as having contributed $976,000, lists former National Security Advisor and prominent Trump supporter Michael Flynn as its chair, the Associated Press reported.
  • Voices and Votes, listed as contributing $605,000, is led by Christina Bobb and Chanel Rion, correspondents for hard-right news network OANN where they have issued calls for donations, the AP reported.
  • Powell – whose multiple attempts at litigating the election have failed – is also behind a major donor, according to the AP. She fronts Defending the Republic, which Cyber Ninjas said donated $550,000.
  • LDFFTAR/EIFFTAR – known as “The Legal Defense Fund for the American Republic” – is a Palm Beach-registered nonprofit which is listed as contributing $280,000, according to Fifeld. Its website states it is raising money for audits in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

The Maricopa County audit has faced intense criticism, such as an expert review by the States United Democracy Center in June which found the effort to have “fatal flaws” in process and conception.

Despite support for the effort from the Arizona Senate, several Republicans have slammed it. Stephen Richer, Maricopa County’s Republican election recorder, called it “borderline dystopian.”

Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, has previously endorsed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the election, and most recently agreed to be in a documentary that made false claims of election fraud.

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A federal judge skewered ‘Kraken’ lawyers for making ‘fantastical’ allegations of election fraud and failing to do the most basic due diligence

Sidney Powell in front of two US flags.
The GOP lawyer Sidney Powell.

  • A federal judge criticized “Kraken” lawyers including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood on Monday.
  • The remarks were at a hearing about whether they should face sanctions over their election lawsuits.
  • The judge suggested the lawyers had submitted affidavits in “bad faith,” calling them “fantastical.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge on Monday excoriated a group of Republican-aligned lawyers including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood over their legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

US District Judge Linda Parker made the comments at a contentious hearing on Zoom whose purpose was to determine whether the lawyers should face sanctions.

Parker repeatedly criticized the attorneys as failing to do “minimal” research on the “evidence” they presented as part of their multipronged effort – which Powell called the “Kraken” – to nullify the election results in states including Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona.

“The court is concerned that these affidavits were submitted in bad faith,” Parker said.

After the so-called Kraken failed, Michigan and the city of Detroit filed complaints with the bar seeking punishment for Powell, Wood, and the lawyers who had signed on to their lawsuits, including Julia Haller, Howard Kleinhendler, Gregory Rohl, Brandon Johnson, Scott Hagerstrom, and Stefanie Lambert Junttila.

Wood sought to distance himself from the Kraken at the beginning of the hearing, saying he “played absolutely no role in the drafting of the complaint” in Michigan.

“I did not review any of the documents with respect to the complaint,” Wood said, later adding, “I just had no involvement in it whatsoever.”

But David Fink, an attorney representing Detroit, contested that claim, saying that Wood had endorsed the effort on social media and that Wood’s own lawyer had said he was associated with the case.

“He’s ready to tell people when it helps him that he’s involved in this case,” Fink said. He later accused the Kraken team of “claiming things that couldn’t have happened, either by law or fact,” and of “not vetting anything that they find.”

Parker also criticized the lawyers for filing affidavits without adequately investigating their claims.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really seen an affidavit” like this, Parker said after reading through one whose author speculated at length about whether the US Postal Service had tampered with mail ballots in the 2020 election.

“This is really fantastical,” Parker said. “How can any of you, as officers of the court, present this type of an affidavit?”

Haller responded that the affiant had submitted information he believed to be true.

“You think that by the language in the affidavit, Ms. Haller, that he is stating that he actually believes his conclusions to be true?” Parker pressed.

Shortly after, Powell spoke for the first time in the hearing, saying that they had filed a “massive” federal lawsuit alleging nationwide election fraud and that the only way to test those allegations was through the “crucible” of a trial.

The judge dismissed Powell’s statement, saying that “volume” “certainly doesn’t equate with legitimacy.”

Fink piled on. The Kraken team “made these allegations based on the paranoid delusions of some witness who never even gets to the punchline,” he said. If they don’t have evidence, they can’t make “miscellaneous, defamatory, and, frankly, phony” allegations, he added.

In his closing remarks, Fink accused the plaintiffs of having “played a very strange game of passing the buck” as it related to their role in the Kraken lawsuits.

He noted that Monday’s hearing came a little over six months after the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6, adding that it “horrified most of us, maybe not all of us, on the screen,” at which point Wood interrupted and accused Fink of defamation.

The argument grew so heated that the court reporter interjected, noted that the hearing had been going on since 8:30 a.m. ET, and asked the lawyers to stop talking over each other so that she could accurately document the proceeding.

Parker reimposed order, and Fink accused the Kraken lawyers of using their licenses to “abuse the processes” of the court in a “devastating way.”

Fink also drew a direct line between the Kraken team’s efforts and the Capitol siege.

“Because of the lies spread in this courtroom, not only did people die on January 6, but many people throughout the world … came to doubt the strength of our democratic institutions in this country,” he said, adding that the court had a responsibility to sanction the Kraken lawyers.

“Because of the way that these lawyers have dishonored our profession, because of the way that these lawyers have taken advantage of this court and this courtroom,” the Kraken team should be referred to the bar for disciplinary proceedings, he said, adding that they should also be referred to the chief judge of the Eastern District of Michigan and prohibited from ever practicing law in the district.

Powell later said that she objected to “nearly everything” Fink said and that she’d never witnessed anything like his remarks in her years of being an attorney.

Parker then thanked Powell and the other lawyers for their remarks and wrapped the hearing, saying that though it was a long proceeding, “it has been a necessary day.”

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‘I didn’t come here to kiss your f—ing ring’: Sidney Powell ripped into Rudy Giuliani after clash over election theories, book says

sidney powell trump giuliani election
Sidney Powell participates in a news conference with Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington on November 19, 2020.

  • Sidney Powell clashed early on with Giuliani as part of Trump’s campaign legal team, per a new book.
  • “I didn’t come here to kiss your f—ing ring,” she reportedly told the former New York City mayor.
  • Powell later saw herself cast aside and then brought back into the Trump orbit.
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As Sidney Powell, a former assistant US attorney, became one of the faces of then-President Donald Trump’s campaign legal team, tension unfolded with Rudy Giuliani last November, according to a forthcoming book by Michael Wolff.

During an outburst, Giuliani, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer and has backed up many of the former president’s debunked election claims, reportedly described Powell as “crazy.”

After Giuliani questioned some of Powell’s most bizarre election theories, she snapped back at the former New York City mayor.

“I didn’t come here to kiss your f—ing ring,” she reportedly said.

Wolff detailed the showdown in “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency,” an early copy of which was obtained by Insider.

The book goes on to describe how Powell and Giuliani went into separate rooms as Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis sought out the former president to resolve the situation.

“The two of them [Powell and Giuliani] ended up in separate rooms sulking, with Ellis calling the president to moderate,” the book said. “The president made clear that he wanted Powell on the team. He was embracing everybody (or anybody) who agreed that the election had been stolen from him.”

As Powell became more entrenched within the Trump orbit, her conspiracy theories were amplified on a much larger scale.

Read more: Where is Trump’s White House staff now? We created a searchable database of more than 327 top staffers to show where they all landed

“In the days immediately following the election, she was the author on Fox of operatic new conspiracies, going much further out than anything the president had yet reached: computer systems had been programmed to switch Trump votes to Biden votes, with the CIA in on it. Now she had been telling Giuliani and the team that the conspiracy ran even deeper: Trump’s landslide victory was upended by an international plot,” the book said.

In media appearances, Powell falsely claimed that Dominion Voting Systems had tilted the US presidential election in favor of now-President Joe Biden. She alleged – without evidence – that Dominion secretly aided a rival election-technology company, Smartmatic, and had links to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Over time, the damage from her unsubstantiated accusations had taken a serious toll.

In late November, Giuliani and Ellis announced that Powell was “practicing law on her own” after being purged from the campaign team.

However, just weeks later, The New York Times reported that Trump was considering naming Powell as a special counsel investigating voter fraud.

According to The Times, most of Trump’s advisors didn’t support the plan, including Giuliani.

Powell currently faces a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion over her debunked election claims; Giuliani and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell are also being sued by the election technology supplier.

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Arizona’s top elections official is calling for a probe of Trump and his allies over ‘intense efforts to interfere’ with ballot counting

rudy giuliani donald trump
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is seen with then-President-elect Donald Trump in Bedminster, New Jersey in November 2016.

  • Records obtained by The Arizona Republic showed Trump allies contacting Arizona election officials.
  • “We need you to stop the counting,” Kelli Ward, Arizona GOP chair, told an official during ballot counting.
  • Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is calling on Trump and his allies to be investigated over the reports.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is calling for an investigation into former President Donald Trump and his allies over “intense efforts to interfere” with the counting of ballots in the 2020 election.

In a letter to Arizona’s attorney general that was shared on Twitter, Hobbs urges him to look into reports that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Kelli Ward tried to interfere with election officials, potentially in violation of state law. She said they contacted officials in Maricopa County, where a GOP-backed audit of the election was recently underway, to disrupt ballot counting.

“Local reporting recently uncovered intense efforts to interfere with the tabulation of ballots and canvass of the 2020 election in Maricopa County,” Hobbs said in a tweet. “In Arizona, interfering with election officials is a felony.”

Read more: A key fundraising group for Republican women is shunning Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, calling them ‘carnival barkers’

Citing The Arizona Republic’s reporting, the letter says Trump and his allies reached out to election officials during the ballot tabulation process “to induce supervisors to refuse to comply with their duties.”

Hobbs notes an incident in which Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, told the chairman of the board of supervisors, “We need you to stop the counting” and “I know you don’t want to be remembered as the guy who led the charge to certify a fraudulent election.”

The comments were made via text messages that were included in records obtained by The Arizona Republic.

Hobbs called for Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate these reports and enforce any laws that were violated.

“Arizona law protects election officials from those who would seek to interfere with their sacred duties to ascertain and certify the will of the voters,” she wrote. “I urge you to take action not only to seek justice in this instance, but to prevent future attempts to interfere with the integrity of our elections.”

Hobbs, a Democrat and vocal critic of the GOP recount in Maricopa County, announced last month she will run for governor in 2022.

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A judge expressed skepticism about arguments from Mike Lindell, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani, who want Dominion’s defamation lawsuits against them dismissed

Mike Lindell Donald Trump
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell at the White House with then-President Donald Trump in 2020.

  • A federal judge on Thursday weighed whether to dismiss Dominion’s defamation lawsuits.
  • He seemed skeptical of arguments from lawyers for Rudy Giuliani, Mike Lindell, and Sidney Powell.
  • Dominion is suing all three Trump allies over election conspiracy theories.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge heard arguments Thursday over whether to allow multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits from Dominion Voting Systems to proceed against Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

Over four hours of arguments, lawyers for each of the defendants tried to convince US District Judge Carl J. Nichols that Dominion’s lawsuits over their clients’ conspiracy theories about the 2020 election should be thrown out of court.

Dominion sued Giuliani, Powell, and MyPillow in three separate lawsuits filed in January and February, each one alleging $1.3 billion in damages.

Nichols did not issue an opinion from the bench at the conclusion of Thursday’s hearing, opting to deliver a written opinion at a later date. Dominion has asked for a jury trial in each case.

Giuliani represented now-former President Donald Trump as a lawyer in lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results. Powell was fired by Trump’s election team, but filed four failed lawsuits on her own seeking to do the same. And Lindell – while all other efforts to overturn the election were unsuccessful – has gone on an extensive media tour alleging Dominion has been manipulated by foreign actors and falsified the election results.

Attorneys for Giuliani, Powell, and Lindell have submitted a wide variety of legal defenses in recent months asking Nichols to throw out the lawsuits. They have argued that Dominion cannot prove their clients acted with “reckless disregard for the truth,” and that a federal court in Washington, DC, was the wrong venue for the legal action.

The law has a high bar for defamation lawsuits

Attorney Thomas Clare, representing Dominion in court Thursday, said he has convincingly shown in the lawsuits each defendant knowingly made false statements “with reckless disregard for the truth,” meeting the legal standard for a defamation case to proceed.

He pointed to Powell using manipulated documents in her lawsuits, Giuliani promoting the claims to make money off of cigar sponsorship deals, and that Lindell barreled past legal rulings, audits, and recounts to continue leveling claims while making money for MyPillow from Trump supporters.

Nichols expressed skepticism about some of the arguments asking to dismiss the case:

  • Howard Kleinman, representing Powell, said Powell’s claims were initially made in lawsuits based on sworn statements, and should therefore be considered true for the sake of legal proceedings. Nichols pointed out that Powell repeated the same claims, without any kind of hedging, in multiple public appearances, not just in her lawsuits.
  • Douglas Daniels, an attorney representing Lindell, said the pillow mogul’s comments about Dominion could not be considered defamatory because they were made within the context of a national debate about election security. Nichols pointed out that Lindell’s specific claims about Dominion – that it rigged the election – were different from a simple policy debate about electronic voter machines.
  • Joe Sibley, representing Giuliani, said Dominion couldn’t show evidence it had lost government contracts because of the Trump lawyer’s allegations. Nichols asked whether the standard made sense, as not much time had elapsed since Giuliani’s claims.

Aside from their federal lawsuits with Dominion, each of the conspiracy theorists faces other headaches.

A New York court stripped Giuliani of his ability to practice law on Thursday, ruling he cannot be trusted because of his falsehoods about the 2020 election. He is also a subject of a Justice Department investigation reportedly examining his attempts to interfere in the 2020 election from Ukraine.

Powell is facing potential legal sanctions because of her false claims. She and Giuliani are also both targets of a defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, a rival technology company they falsely claimed was in cahoots with Dominion to manipulate election results.

Lindell said he is losing money because of his claims about the election, and has filed a countersuit against Dominion in a federal court in Minnesota. His attorney on Thursday argued Dominion’s lawsuit should have been filed in Minnesota instead of DC, an argument the judge seemed skeptical about.

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Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Fox News have August date confirmed for court bid to dismiss $2.7 billion Smartmatic lawsuit

A Fox News broadcast featuring host Lou Dobbs and lawyer Rudy Giuliani
A November 12, 2020 Fox News broadcast screenshot filed as an exhibit by Smartmatic in May.

  • Rudy Giuliani and Fox News will argue for dismissal of a $2.7 billion defamation case on August 17.
  • Voting-machine company Smartmatic said they spread false claims about the presidential election.
  • Defendants include Trump lawyers Giuliani and Sidney Powell, along with a cast of Fox News hosts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A New York Supreme Court on August 17 will hear arguments from Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Fox Corporation in their bid for the dismissal of a $2.7 billion defamation case brought by Smartmatic.

The election-technology company said in its February complaint that the defendants – including Fox News and hosts Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and Lou Dobbs – spread disinformation about the November 2020 presidential election.

The arguments are set for 9:30 a.m. in front of Judge David Benjamin Cohen, according to the court.

Giuliani and Powell, lawyers for President Donald Trump, appeared on Fox News following the election to say the election had been rigged by Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems.

The pair “needed to identify a villain” to make their story about election fraud work, Smartmatic said in its complaint.

The complaint said: “They knew of President Trump’s popularity. They knew he had millions of loyal followers. To rile them up, to get them angry, to get them to donate money, Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell needed a villain in their story. They needed someone they could say had rigged and stolen the election from a President admired and adored by millions.”

It added: “Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell settled on two villains: Smartmatic and Dominion.”

Fox News in April sought to dismiss the case, saying its hosts didn’t have a responsibility to fact-check lawyers for a sitting president.

Powell’s lawyers earlier this month said her Fox News spots were “about election integrity” and were not attempts to raise money.

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Sidney Powell’s lawyers argue her Fox News appearances were ‘not infomercials,’ compare her to Buddhist monk as they move to dismiss defamation lawsuit

sidney powell
Attorney Sidney Powell, speaks during in Alpharetta, Ga.

  • Sidney Powell has asked a judge to dismiss Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit.
  • Her lawyers argue her appearances on Fox News weren’t just infomercials to raise money.
  • Rudy Giuliani, another defendant in the lawsuit, also asked a judge for dismissal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An attorney for Sidney Powell filed a court motion Thursday asking a judge to dismiss a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against her, arguing her television appearances advancing conspiracy theories about the 2020 election were “not infomercials” and comparing her to a Buddhist monk.

The filing, in New York state court, argued that Powell was sincerely concerned about the integrity of the election. Powell didn’t just want to raise money through her organization Defending the Republic, as voting technology company Smartmatic alleged in its lawsuit, her attorney argued.

“Powell’s Fox News interviews were about election integrity, evidence of election fraud, and her intention to take legal action to bring the malfeasance to light,” the filing says. “Her appearances were not informercials promoting her law firm or DTR’s websites. [sic]”

Powell, a former attorney on Donald Trump’s 2020 election team, falsely accused Smartmatic of being in cahoots with Dominion Voting Systems, a rival election technology company, to “flip” votes from then-President Trump to now-President Joe Biden. When Trump fired Powell from his legal team, she subsequently filed four failed and conspiracy-theory-filled lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results.

Smartmatic filed its lawsuit in February. It accused Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and Fox News of defamation over election conspiracy theory claims.

In the new filing, Powell’s attorney, Howard Kleinhendler, said she can’t be held responsible in a New York state court over her claims, comparing her to a Buddhist monk in the Himalayas.

“Plaintiffs ask this Court to assert personal jurisdiction over Powell because her words were broadcast world-wide by Fox news from New York and maybe, as a result, some New Yorkers sent money to a Texas not-for-profit corporation called Defending the Republic,” Kleinhendler wrote. “According to this theory, a Buddhist monk shrouded in red robes high atop the Himalayas demanding Tibetan independence from China can be haled into this Court for defamatory statements against the Communist government.”

Rudy Giuliani also asked to dismiss the defamation suit

An attorney for Giuliani also filed a motion for dismissal on Thursday. Like Powell, Giuliani’s attorney argued that Smartmatic didn’t have jurisdiction to sue him in New York over comments claiming the company had secret Venezuelan connections it used to develop technology to manipulate election results.

Giuliani’s attorney also said that an “ordinary listener/reader” would interpret Giuliani’s remarks to be a reference to a Venezuelan company. Smartmatic is a British or Dutch company, and so the lawsuit should be dismissed, the attorney argued.

PowellRudy
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell have drifted from Trump’s orbit since the election.

Fox News, too, has filed motions asking the court to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit.

Court filings in February and in April argued that since the media company was offering newsworthy information from the president’s lawyers to viewers, it didn’t need to deeply scrutinize Powell’s and Giuliani’s claims. Smartmatic has argued that Fox News shouldn’t benefit from legal protections normally given to media companies in defamation lawsuits in New York.

Dominion has also sued Fox News, Powell, and Giuliani in separate lawsuits over election falsehoods. They have all asked for the lawsuits to be dismissed.

In March, Powell’s attorneys argued that Dominion’s lawsuit should be dismissed because her claims about the election were too outlandish to be taken seriously, even though she’s continued to push political conspiracy theories. Powell also faces potential legal sanctions over her lawsuits.

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Ex-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell showed up to a QAnon conference in a biker vest and falsely claimed Trump could be ‘reinstated’ as president

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Sidney Powell

  • Former Trump attorney Sidney Powell told the audience at a QAnon conference that Trump could be inaugurated and “reinstated” as president.
  • Powell wore a leather biker vest adorned with a slew of pro-Trump and religious patches.
  • Powell, who previously represented Trump in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is a longtime promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sidney Powell, former President Donald Trump’s ex-attorney, told the audience at a QAnon conference on Saturday that President Joe Biden should be removed from office and Trump should be “reinstated” as president.

Powell, who’s filed dozens of unsuccessful lawsuits attempting to overturn 2020 election results, falsely told the crowd that Trump could still be inaugurated, but he wouldn’t get credit for “time lost.”

“He can simply be reinstated,” she said, eliciting cheers from the Dallas crowd.

“A new inauguration day is set and Biden is told to move out of the White House. And President Trump should be moved back in. I’m sure there’s not going to be credit for time lost, unfortunately, because the Constitution sets the date for inauguration, but he should definitely get the remainder of his term and make the most of it.”

Powell, a longtime promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, wore a leather biker vest adorned with political and religious patches, including one that read “MAGA” and another with, “No God No Peace Know God Know Peace.” Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Powell earlier this year, accusing her of helping push “a viral disinformation campaign” that spread dangerous lies about the election and the company.

The three-day conference, called For God & Country: Patriot Roundup, featured other prominent Trump world figures, including Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, and chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Allen West.

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Dominion is accusing Sidney Powell of promoting ‘defamatory falsehoods’ to attract money and fame

sidney powell
Sidney Powell participates in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington

  • Dominion is accusing attorney Sidney Powell of lying about the company to earn money and sell books.
  • It made the argument in a court filing on Monday as part of a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit.
  • Powell’s lawyers argued her conspiracy theories were not meant to be taken as statements of fact.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sidney Powell doesn’t think any “reasonable person” who listened to her claims about the 2020 election – and donated to her stated effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory – would believe what she was saying on television “were truly statements of fact.” That is what her attorneys argued last month in an attempt to beat back a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from the company she accused of rigging the vote.

On Monday, Dominion Voting Systems fired back. In a court filing, it accused the far-right conspiracy theorist of spreading lies about the company and the integrity of US democracy in order to sell books and make money. And it accused her of seeking to evade responsibility by inventing a new standard for libel whereby one could get away with defamation merely by committing it on Fox News.

“After lying about the evidence supporting her claims,” Dominion’s legal team said, “Powell now asks this court to create unprecedented immunity for attorneys to wage televised disinformation campaigns.”

The company, which filed its lawsuit in US federal court in January, is seeking $1.3 billion in damages.

After the November election, Powell, a former federal prosecutor who now sells autographed books and T-shirts on her website, alleged it was the loser of the 2020 election, Donald Trump, who in fact “won by a landslide” (Biden beat the former president by more than 7 million votes).

Her claims were cosigned by the Republican Party and endorsed by the former president, although his campaign later distanced itself from Powell as her outlandish assertions increased their legal vulnerability. (Rudy Giuliani, too, is now being sued by the company for his part in “a viral disinformation campaign.)

Among other things, Powell falsely asserted she had evidence Dominion “was created to produce altered voting results in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez,” and that it had been imported to the US to do the same for Democrats. “We’re collecting evidence now from various whistleblowers that are aware of substantial sums of money being given to family members of state officials who bought this software,” she stated.

To support her claims against Dominion, she filed an affidavit from Ron Watkins, the owner of a conspiracy-theory message board, 8kun, that gained infamy as the home of the “QAnon” hoax.

Powell’s attorneys now assert this was all merely the heated rhetoric of a political campaign, not intended to be actionable statements of fact. But Dominion’s legal team says that is no defense – and that Powell harmed the company for personal profit, using “defamatory falsehoods to solicit funds … and to garner media attention,” which in turn helped her sell “additional copies of her book and drummed up additional potential clients.”

If Powell has any evidence to back up her claims, Dominion is inviting her to show them to the court.

“She either has a video of Dominion’s founder admitting that he can change a million votes or she does not (she does not),” the company’s lawyers state. “Dominion was either created in Venezuela to rig elections or it was not (it was not). Dominion either rigged the 2020 election by weighting, flipping, switching, and trashing votes or it did not (it did not). Dominion either bribed officials or it did not (it did not).”

Dominion’s legal filing comes just days after one of its executives reached a settlement with Newsmax, a right-wing media organization that alleged the company’s head of security had rigged the election himself. On its cable television network, Newsmax informed its viewers that it in fact had “no evidence” to support the allegation.

But retractions never garner the same amount of attention as an initial, inflammatory claim. A recent CNN poll found that while a large majority of Americans accept Biden’s victory as the product of a free and fair election, 70% of Republicans believe his presidency is illegitimate.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Fox News argues its hosts didn’t need to fact-check election conspiracy theories from Trump’s lawyers in response to Smartmatic defamation suit

Lou Dobbs Fox Business News
Former Fox News host Lou Dobbs.

  • Fox News is trying to dismiss a $2.7 billion lawsuit from Smartmatic over election conspiracies.
  • It argues its hosts didn’t have a legal responsibility to fact-check falsehoods from Trump’s lawyers.
  • Election conspiracy theories have led to a tangle of legal consequences for right-wing media.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Attorneys representing Fox News once again asked a New York court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic over conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, arguing its hosts didn’t have a responsibility to fact-check the attorneys hired by Donald Trump.

“Smartmatic asks this Court to become the first in history to hold the press liable for reporting allegations made by a sitting President and his lawyers,” the attorneys wrote in a brief filed to court Monday, later adding: “Smartmatic identifies no case in the history of our nation in which the press was held liable for reporting allegations made by or on behalf of a sitting President.”

The lawsuit, filed in February, asks for $2.7 billion in damages and accuses Fox News of waging a disinformation campaign that irreparably damaged Smartmatic’s reputation. It also targets three individual hosts – Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs – who hosted Trump’s attorneys, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

Powell and Giuliani had promoted conspiracy theories baselessly claiming that Smartmatic was secretly in cahoots with Dominion Voting Systems, a rival election technology company, in a complicated scheme to manipulate the 2020 presidential election that involved now-dead Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Dozens of lawsuits, audits, investigations, and recounts have found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

The false claims have led to a messy fallout. Trump fired Powell in late November, and Giuliani distanced himself from her even as he continued to advance conspiracy theories. Dominion sued Powell, Giuliani, Fox News, and other right-wing media figures that pushed those theories. And Fox News canceled Lou Dobb’s show shortly after Smartmatic filed its lawsuit.

jeanine pirro fox news
A screenshot of a Fox News broadcast featuring Jeanine Pirro, included as an exhibit in Fox News’ motion to dismiss the case.

Fox News first asked a judge to dismiss the case a few days after it was filed. On Monday, the network’s attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis LLP asked the judge to dismiss the claims against the individual hosts as well. The attorneys argue the legal standards for defamation don’t require the hosts to investigate whether Powell’s and Giuliani’s claims are actually true.

“Smartmatic simply identifies information ‘available to’ the public that it thinks the Fox hosts should have researched. But such ‘failure to investigate’ claims do not rise to the level of actual malice,” the attorneys wrote, citing other legal cases.

In earlier filings, Smartmatic said that the Fox News hosts’ failure to push back against false claims from Powell and Giuliani was itself defamatory, and said that the media organization shouldn’t receive legal protections normally given to journalists.

The new filings from Fox News spend dozens of pages going through individual claims from Bartiromo, Pirro, and Dobbs, arguing their comments were summaries of what Trump’s lawyers said, opinions protected by the First Amendment, or statements that didn’t directly mention Smartmatic and therefore didn’t need to be defended in the lawsuit.

As one example, Fox News’ attorneys cite a tweet included in Smartmatic’s lawsuit where Dobbs wrote, “Read all about Dominion and Smartmatic voting companies and you’ll soon understand how pervasive this Democrat electoral fraud is, and why there’s no way in the world the 2020 Presidential election was either free or fair.”

They wrote the statement was simply an opinion, and that statements on Twitter should not be taken seriously.

“New York courts have recognized that Twitter is not a natural setting in which a reasonable viewer would conclude that he is hearing actual facts about the plaintiff,” the lawyers argue.

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