Washington (CNN)Dominion Voting Systems on Thursday accused right-wing lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani of coming to Washington, DC, to push election fraud claims in late 2020 because they wanted to rub elbows with nationally powerful Republicans, including then-President Donald Trump.
“That’s the place they could get in-person audiences,” Dominion attorney Megan Meier said in court Thursday. Washington was “the place where Powell could become a household name.”
Dominion’s claim was one of the more sensational allegations during a largely technical legal argument that lasted four hours in DC’s federal courthouse on Thursday. The hearing came as part of a trio of major defamation lawsuits from the company, after right-wing media pummeled it for President Joe Biden’s election win in November.
The arguments from defendants Powell, Giuliani and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell at times veered into re-litigating the election, which authorities have repeatedly confirmed was conducted securely and had no evidence of vote-system tampering.
The hearing began a few hours after a New York court suspended Giuliani’s law license. The five-judge panel said he had made false and misleading statements in court about voter fraud as he represented Trump in his post-election lawsuits.
Giuliani didn’t attend the hearing in DC, but Powell and Lindell did.
Dominion, which provides voting tabulation services, was attempting to convince a federal judge their defamation lawsuit against Powell belongs in federal court in Washington. The company is seeking more than $1.3 billion in damages and has repeatedly denied all election fraud allegations.
The lawsuit is at a stage where the Judge Carl Nichols of the DC District Court could throw it out for technical flaws. He has not yet decided.
Meier on Thursday pointed to appearances Powell was making in DC after the election — including a now-infamous press conference she held with Giuliani to spout unproven, widely mocked election fraud accusations.
The company, in its defamation case, has also suggested Powell took on Trump’s election fraud push because she wanted to secure a pardon for Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser whom she represented in court following his guilty plea for lying to the FBI. Trump ultimately pardoned Flynn just before Thanksgiving 2020.
When asked on Thursday if she aimed for a pardon for Flynn, Powell’s lawyer says that wasn’t the case. Though before the election, Powell admitted in court she was in touch with Trump about Flynn.
Lawyers for Powell and Lindell continued to say their election fraud assertions are protected speech because, they claim, the election continues to be disputed. Both pro-Trump election deniers have argued they can’t be sued for claiming fraud in the 2020 presidential election because Powell filed election fraud cases in court in late 2020, and “investigations” into election integrity are ongoing.
An attorney for Dominion, Tom Clare, said the lawsuit can remain alive if jurors could think the statements Lindell, Powell and Giuliani made were improbable. As an example, he pointed to statements that then-Attorney General William Barr was “in on it” to protect Dominion. “That’s the sort of thing that would be very improbable,” Clare added.
Powell’s attorney argued she is protected because she had witness affidavits submitted in court that accused Dominion of switching votes, something the company vehemently denies and that Powell has never provided evidence of.
MyPillow and Lindell’s attorneys, especially, have continued to attempt to sow doubt in the presidential election results.
Andrew Parker, one of the defense attorneys for Lindell, pointed to how public opinion can change on factual issues, such as how the coronavirus lab-leak theory was initially dismissed but then gained more scientific traction. He also pointed to ongoing election “investigations” to cover the idea that the election is still disputed.
Parker said Lindell, a far-right commentator who paid for a documentary to falsely describe voting irregularities, “knows” the statements he made to be true, and that election fraud assertions don’t need to be looked at in federal court because they are worthy to “be in the marketplace of ideas.” Another attorney for Lindell, Douglas Daniels, doubled down. “Any American who ever intends to voice their opinion about election integrity are here today. This court will set precedent,” he said.
Clare, arguing that Dominion’s lawsuit should move toward a trial, countered that the election fraud defamation case isn’t about “the marketplace of ideas.”
“There is a quantum of information available to him by the time he made these statements,” Clare said about Lindell. “He made the preconceived notion that the election was stolen.”
Clare noted that at one point when Lindell was trying to make his claims on TV, an anchor of the right-wing TV network Newsmax walked off the set.
Large sum lawsuits
Dominion, founded in Canada, says it projects at least $650 million in lost profit and revenue and in out-of-pocket costs and that its reputation has faced “catastrophic” harm. The company has previously said that its employees have faced harassment as a result of the election fraud claims and has spent more than a half-million dollars on private security.
Its efforts in court have been robust, too — with a small army of lawyers attending the hearing Thursday.
In its lawsuit against Powell, Dominion outlined her TV appearances and online posts — including when she repeated her unfounded beliefs that Dominion was linked to communist Venezuela and Georgia officials were in on election fraud — and how those were amplified by Trump and his supporters online. Powell also continued her falsehoods after the company asked her to retract her statement, Dominion said.
“Emboldened by Trump’s endorsement of her false accusations, which launched her into political superstardom, Powell’s defamatory media campaign continued and intensified” with her media appearances, the lawsuit says.
Dominion’s lawsuit against Giuliani is similar.
“Just as Giuliani and his allies intended, the Big Lie went viral on social media as people tweeted, retweeted, and raged that Dominion had stolen their votes. While some lies — little lies — flare up on social media and die with the next news cycle, the Big Lie was different,” lawyers for Dominion wrote in its lawsuit against Giuliani. “The harm to Dominion’s business and reputation is unprecedented and irreparable because of how fervently millions of people believe it.”
Giuliani has said the lawsuit is meant to quiet him. He had already been serving as Trump’s lawyer for more than two years when he unsuccessfully picked up Trump’s attempts to overturn his election losses of various states.
“The amount being asked for is, quite obviously, intended to frighten people of faint heart,” Giuliani said when the suit was filed. “It is another act of intimidation by the hate-filled left-wing to wipe out and censor the exercise of free speech, as well as the ability of lawyers to defend their clients vigorously.”
Dominion’s lawsuit against Lindell similarly cites media appearances and social media posts pushing what they called the “Big Lie” about Dominion’s machines — including a two-hour film that aired on OAN and was filled with falsehoods about voting irregularities.
In the lawsuit, Dominion writes that Lindell “sells the lie to this day because the lie sells pillows,” citing promotional discount codes on MyPillow’s website, including “FightforTrump,” “Proof” and “QAnon.”
In court, attorneys for Lindell and Powell also argued that MyPillow and a fundraising portal Powell uses shouldn’t be able to be sued in DC, either.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.