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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dominion sued Lindell and MyPillow in February, asking for $1.3 billion in damages. The election technology company claimed Lindell defamed it when he falsely claimed it rigged the 2020 election in favor of Joe Biden against Donald Trump.
The new MyPillow lawsuit reiterates a version of the very same conspiracy theory.
“In its capacity as – and using its authority as – a governmental actor, Dominion allowed manipulation or changing of votes in the 2020 election, as well as suppressed public debate about the election which deprived MyPillow of its rights,” the lawsuit says.
There is no evidence that Dominion allowed the manipulation or changing of votes in the 2020 election. Numerous audits, lawsuits, and analyses of technology used in the election have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Despite claiming Dominion manipulated election results, the lawsuit brings forth no evidence to bolster that claim. The most recent example of problems with Dominion-related election software included in the lawsuit dates back to 2009. The lawsuit also brings up examples of numerous people claiming before the 2020 election that it would be hacked, but presents no actual evidence of hacking. The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency said the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history.”
“Even assuming, arguendo, that each of the statements alleged in the Complaint could be proved true or false, no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” Powell’s attorneys wrote.
Smartmatic Voting Systems argued in a court filing Monday that Fox News should not have legal protections normally given to journalists, arguing that its defamation lawsuit should move forward.
Smartmatic’s 137-page filing rejects Fox News’ defense that it was simply reporting on the dispute between the election technology company and conspiracy theorists who falsely said it played a role in rigging the 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump.
Powell, an attorney who became widely known after filing multiple lawsuits and floating conspiracy theories about 2020 election fraud, claimed “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact” in her defense against a defamation lawsuit brought by election-technology company Dominion.
Powell “made a series of stunning admissions,” in the Dominion lawsuit that addressed statements about election fraud, “many of which also were made to this Court,” the filing said.
Nessel asked a federal court in January to sanction Powell and three other attorneys over a lawsuit in Michigan that requested the state overturn its elections results, claiming fraud in President Joe Biden’s defeat of former President Donald Trump.
In her filing to the federal court this week, Nessel said Powell’s defense in the Dominion lawsuit proves that the attorney’s behavior “warrants sanctions because it unreasonably multiplied the proceedings in this case and abused the judicial process.”
Powell did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
Powell, who was hired and then fired by former President Trump, claimed Dominion and Smartmatic, which is also suing her, used their voting machines to falsify votes in the 2020 presidential election.
Her law firm filed lawsuits regarding 2020 election fraud in Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, all of which lost in court.
Powell isn’t the only one facing legal repercussions for claims made about the 2020 election. Former President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Fox News, and MyPillow Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell are also facing defamation lawsuits from the election-technology companies.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has asked a court to force former President Donald Trump, his lawyers, and former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees over their presidential election lawsuits.
In court documents filed on Wednesday, attorneys for Evers called lawsuits that disputed the 2020 election results “meritless” and “built on inscrutable conspiracy theories.”
He called for $106,000 in sanctions against Powell, and $144,000 against Trump and his attorneys, according to court documents.
“This litigation imposed significant costs on the taxpayers of Wisconsin,” attorneys for Evers said in court documents filed against Trump. “Those costs were needless, because Trump’s suit never had any merit, this litigation was precluded by exclusive state-court proceedings, and the costs were exacerbated by strategic choices made by Trump and his lawyers.”
Dominion and Smartmatic have launched a series of defamation lawsuits against individuals and groups who spread election fraud conspiracy theories related to their voting machines during the 2020 presidential election.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, people turned to alternative ways to vote in the election, and voter fraud conspiracy theories quickly sprung up.
One posited that Dominion and Smartmatic developed technology that “flipped” votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden through a method developed with the regime of the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez.
Its customer support number received a voicemail message saying “we’re bringing back the firing squad,” it wrote in the suit in January. The need for heightened personal security cost Dominion $565,000, according to the lawsuit, bringing its total costs attributed to the vote fraud claims to almost $1.2 million.
Dominion’s lawsuit alleges that Powell’s claims caused the company business losses after she baselessly accused the company of fraud, election rigging, and bribery.
“Powell’s statements were calculated to — and did in fact — provoke outrage and cause Dominion enormous harm,” Tom Clare, the attorney representing Dominion, wrote in the lawsuit.
The 124-page defamation lawsuit also outlines how Powell raised money from her media tour peddling her conspiracy theory through a corporate vehicle called “Defending the Republic,” also named as a party in the lawsuit.
Powell responded by tweeting that the lawsuit “is baseless & filed to harass, intimidate, & to drain our resources as we seek the truth of #DominionVotingSystems‘ role in this fraudulent election.”
The company claimed that Powell and Giuliani used right-wing media outlets like Fox News to make their conspiracy theories go viral.
“These defendants are primary sources of much of the false information,” the company said. “Their unfounded accusations were repeated by other media outlets, journalists, bloggers and influencers the world over.”
In the lawsuit, Dominion accused Giuliani of creating “a viral disinformation campaign about Dominion,” referring to more than 50 of his statements.
Through hearings, television appearances, Twitter, and his own YouTube show, it said, Giuliani repeatedly accused Dominion of election fraud and misrepresented the company’s security measures while doing so.
He “cashed in by hosting a podcast where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves,'” Dominion wrote in the lawsuit.
The 107-page document also cited numerous other people who said they believed Giuliani’s claims, which it argued demonstrated the scope of the damage.
“Rudy Giuliani actively propagated disinformation to purposefully mislead voters,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said in a statement. “Because Giuliani and others incessantly repeated the false claims about my company on a range of media platforms, some of our own family and friends are among the Americans who were duped.”
Dominion’s lawsuit accused Lindell of repeatedly making false allegations while knowing there was no credible evidence to support his claims. As well as rallies, interviews, and a two-hour movie, Lindell used his social-media profiles to spread his baseless claims of voter fraud.
“I looked at it as a great day for America when they sued me,” Lindell added. “I can put the evidence for the whole world to see, and it’ll be public record, and the media will quit trying to suppress it.”
On March 26, Dominion also filed a lawsuit against Fox News. The $1.6 billion suit – its biggest yet – claimed that the network gave prominence to the election-fraud claims as a tactic to revive viewership as ratings dropped after President Donald Trump’s loss.
The voting-technology company said that Fox News “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.”
In a statement, Fox News said: “Fox News Media is proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism, and will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”
While several of its news shows reported that there was no evidence of Dominion’s systems changing votes, Fox News, in particular its opinion hosts, “questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it at least 774 times” in the two weeks after the network called the race, according to Media Matters.
Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and Lou Dobbs by Smartmatic. They have filed to dismiss the lawsuit