The Slatest

Pro-Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell’s Defamation Defense: No “Reasonable Person” Would Ever Believe Sidney Powell

Sidney Powell speaking at the Republican National Committee headquarters.
Sidney Powell making absurd claims of sweeping election fraud at a press conference in D.C. on Nov. 19. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

There was a two-month window, starting Nov. 3, where lawyer Sidney Powell said a lot of things. Many were broadcast on television and social media, and almost all of them were utter nonsense. It was, if you’ll think back, a strange moment in American history—coming on the heels of a similarly strange four years—where adherence to the truth suddenly seemed totally and utterly inconsequential. This wasn’t an era of stretching the truth or disingenuously framing an issue in a way politicians often do; this was something totally different. Powell and Trump allies like her, most notably Rudy Giuliani, delved into utter fiction, each whopper bigger than the next. Some of Powell’s most incendiary, ludicrous, and damaging claims were about the U.S. voting system and the 2020 election, which she claimed Trump actually won by a bazillion votes.

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The straw man that emerged in Powell’s conspiracies was Dominion Voting Systems, a company that creates much of the voting infrastructure used to cast ballots in the U.S. Powell claimed that votes had been switched, that the mythical “algorithm” had been corrupted, and, most notably, that the entire sinister election-sabotage plan had been hatched by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who had died many years earlier. It was all so utterly ludicrous, so divorced from reality that it was hard to know where to start in refuting them. Boosted by conservative media and the president of the United States himself, Powell’s descriptions of the various ways Dominion “rigged” the election were injected into the brains of millions of conservatives who by the end of it no longer believed the election to be legitimate.

Dominion understandably sued Powell for defamation in January, seeking more than $1.3 billion in damages. On Monday, Powell moved to dismiss the suit, using the most modern Trumpian logic, that “reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact.” Powell was just repeating what she heard from witnesses night after night on Fox News, the motion says, not actually stating what had actually transpired during the election. Everyone should have known that. And that may be the first and only true thing Sidney Powell has ever said.

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