“No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” Powell's attorneys said in a court filing defending her against a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, the manufacturer of the election equipment she claimed was involved in the conspiracy to steal the election.
Powell, who for a time was part of former President Donald Trump's legal team fighting the election results, repeatedly and baselessly claimed that votes were illegally switched on Dominion voting machines. Election experts and officials, as well as top law enforcement officials, have said the 2020 election results were accurate and there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S.
The filing Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia claims Powell's statements were so absurd they couldn’t be taken seriously.
“Plaintiffs themselves characterize the statements at issue as 'wild accusations' and 'outlandish claims,'" her lawyers wrote. "They are repeatedly labeled 'inherently improbable' and even 'impossible.' Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support defendant’s position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process."
In November, Powell took part in a freewheeling, conspiracy-riddled news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington that is a key focus of the lawsuit. There, she and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani alleged a coordinated conspiracy using voting systems — including Dominion machines, which she baselessly claimed were created to rig elections for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez — to steal the election from Trump. Dominion is a private U.S. company.
The conspiracy involved “all kinds of massive interests of globalist — dictators, corporations, you name it. Everybody's against us, except President Trump,” Powell said.
Powell's claims are at odds with the nation's post-election reality: Republican lawmakers across the country now say that so many questions were raised about the accuracy of the 2020 election that they need to pass restrictive voting laws to reinstill trust. There are hundreds of restrictive election bills being considered in 43 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Some appear to refer to conspiracy theories advanced by Trump's attorneys. In Texas, one proposed bill requires the state use U.S.-made voting systems.
While arguing that Powell's public statements and filings were clearly opinion, the filing also claims that she still believes them to be true.
Her lawyers argued that journalists are able to use the First Amendment to rely on sources they deem credible and that attorneys should be able to do the same. Powell credited sworn testimony when she tied Chávez, who died in 2013, to voting systems used in the 2020 election.
"Lawyers involved in fast-moving litigation concerning matters of transcendent public importance, who rely on sworn declarations, are entitled to no less protection," the filing said, arguing that journalists are only penalized if they know they are publishing false information.
"She believed the allegations then and she believes them now," the filing says.
The filing requests that the lawsuit against Powell be dismissed or moved to Texas federal court. It is signed by a several attorneys, including Jesse Binnall, a Virginia-based attorney who is defending Trump in a civil suit about the Jan. 6 riot. The former president has continued to advance false claims about the 2020 election; he spoke at CPAC last month and falsely claimed that there were 42,000 double or multiple votes in Nevada.
Dominion has also filed defamation suits against Giuliani and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell; Dominion CEO John Poulos told CNBC to expect more lawsuits.
The voting systems company SmartMatic has also sued Powell, Giuliani and Fox News over their election fraud claims.