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a close up of a person: Sidney Powell. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images © Provided by Business Insider Sidney Powell. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

  • Dominion Voting Systems has filed a defamation suit against the pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell, seeking $1.3 billion in damages.
  • Powell, a former lawyer for President Donald Trump’s campaign, has pushed a conspiracy theory that the election technology company falsified results in the 2020 presidential election.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit Friday against pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell seeking $1.3 billion in damages.

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For months, Powell pushed a false conspiracy theory alleging that Dominion’s election technology had helped falsify the results of the 2020 presidential election to “switch” votes from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

Her convoluted theory alleged Dominion was secretly in cahoots with a rival election technology, Smartmatic, and had links to the regime of now-dead Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

“Far from being created in Venezuela to rig elections for a now-deceased Venezuelan dictator, Dominion was founded in Toronto for the purpose of creating a fully audit-able paper-based vote system that would empower people with disabilities to vote independently on verifiable paper ballots,” Dominion’s lawsuit argues.

Powell was one of the faces of the Trump campaign’s legal team in November, but was pushed out after she floated her conspiracy theory at a press conference alongside attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, who remain on the team.

Nonetheless, the false theory formed the premise of four federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, all of which have failed and have now resulted in motions for her to be disbarred.

Dominion’s 124-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, DC, outlines how Powell repeatedly spread lies about the company, flying in the face of evidence from election certification and security authorities and courts that found her claims meritless.

A lie spread through a right-wing media ecosystem

The lawsuit outlines how Powell used the right-wing media ecosystem to spread the theory. It says that Powell’s falsehoods “in concert with like-minded allies and media outlets” has led to Dominion employees and officials in the states where she said the election was rigged.

It also points out that Trump tweeted videos of Powell making her claims “to his more than 88 million followers, instantly and irreparably damaging Dominion’s reputation and business to a global audience and putting the lives of Dominion employees in danger.”

Tom Claire, the attorney representing Dominion, said in a press conference Friday that this lawsuit against Powell will be the first in a series, and that the company is still weighing whether to sue Trump himself. He told Insider that he expects to sue other parties parallel to Powell, rather than waiting for the lawsuit against her to conclude.

In December, Claire sent document retention letters to Giuliani as well as right-wing media organizations including Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News, and previously told Insider that the company was weighing defamation lawsuits against them as well.

The lawsuit also outlines how Powell raised money from her media tour peddling her conspiracy theory through a corporate vehicle called “Defending the Republic, Inc,” also named as a party in the lawsuit.

Powell didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Actual malice

To succeed in a defamation lawsuit, plaintiffs like Dominion must show that defendants like Powell acted with “actual malice,” rather than sincerely believing their falsehoods.

To clear this hurdle, Claire said Friday, the lawsuit points to the fact that Powell continued to push her conspiracy theory even when she was contradicted by hard evidence, falsified court filings, and misrepresented the qualifications of her sources.

“She continued to make those same discredited statements over and over and over again the face of all of that hard evidence,” Claire said in a press conference Friday. “She concealed and misrepresented who her sources actually were, as well as their qualifications. She relied on sources with a track record of spreading false statements and spreading conspiracy theories.”

The lawsuit points to an exhibit Powell filed in her federal lawsuit in Georgia. She said that Dominion did not have an up-to-date certification in the state. In fact, the exhibit simply cropped out the certification date, which was in fact recent.

text: On the left, an exhibit Sidney Powell filed in a lawsuit with approval cropped out. On the right, the authentic election technology approval certificate. Dominion lawsuit © Dominion lawsuit On the left, an exhibit Sidney Powell filed in a lawsuit with approval cropped out. On the right, the authentic election technology approval certificate. Dominion lawsuit

Jan Jacobowitz, a former University of Miami law professor and expert on legal ethics, previously told Insider that Powell could be disbarred or face other court sanctions if she was found to falsify documents in her lawsuits. The City of Detroit, following the failure of Powell’s Michigan lawsuit, has already referred her for disbarment.

Dominion’s lawsuit outlines the dubious sources Powell cites in her lawsuits. One is “Spider” – Powell sometimes spelled the name as “Spyder” – who claimed to be a “military intelligence expert.” Powell retracted her identity from the lawsuit exhibits but erroneously included his real name in the metadata. The Washington Post spoke to Merritt and found that he vastly misrepresented his qualifications,

Another source, who Powell described as a “Venezuelan military officer,” was identified by the Associated Press as Leamsy Villafaña José Salazar. Dominion’s lawsuit describes Salazar’s claims as false on their face.

“If Salazar is now a pure-hearted whistleblower with the best interests of American democracy at heart, why did he wait more than five years after arriving in the United States – until after Trump had lost the presidential election -  to tell anyone that U.S. elections were being rigged through the use of decades-old Venezuelan vote-flipping software[?]” the lawsuit says.

Other affiants Powell relied on in her lawsuit, Dominion says, are “conspiracy theorists, con artists, and other facially unreliable sources as experts.” One lied about their military career. Another allegedly lied about being a doctor and used money raised for charity for personal gain. Yet another purported to show fraud citing a county that does not exist. Yet another pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories claiming George Soros helped give rise to Nazi Germany in the 1930s (Soros is Jewish and was born in 1930).

   

Read the full lawsuit below:

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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