A billion-dollar Sword of Damocles continues to hang over the heads of some of Donald Trump’s closest allies.
Former Trump campaign lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, and pillow magnate Mike Lindell, wanted a federal judge to make their problems go away — to dismiss the $1.3 billion defamation lawsuits they each face for their alleged lies about the 2020 election.
But on Wednesday, the judge did basically the exact opposite, saying that Dominion, the voting machine maker, has a real case.
In short, Nichols explained, a reasonable juror could conclude the defendants expressed or implied a verifiably false fact about Dominion.
“This is not a close call,” Nichols wrote, referring to Powell. The judge offered a post-election example.
On Nov. 17, the Trump lawyer appeared on Newsmax and claimed to have evidence of Dominion’s founder admitting that “he can change a million votes, no problem at all.”
Powell said she would “tweet out the video later” — but she never did.
“These statements are either true or not; either Powell has a video depicting the founder of Dominion saying he can ‘change a million votes,’ or she does not,” Nichols wrote.
Powell had argued that “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” and that she was instead speaking as an attorney and advocate for Trump’s campaign when she made her outlandish Dominion claims. But the judge wasn’t buying it.
“[I]t is simply not the law that provably false statements cannot be actionable if made in the context of an election,” he wrote.
The judge found the arguments by Lindell and Giuliani to be similarly cut-and-dry.
The MyPillow CEO — who’s currently in the middle of another disastrous conference that he promised would prove that the election had been stolen — made all sorts of claims following the election about how Dominion machines were “built to cheat” and had flipped votes from Trump to Biden.
The claims were not only inherently improbable and unreliable, Dominion alleged, but Lindell also tied them to pillow sales, with discount codes like “FightForTrump” and “Proof.”
“In totality, [Dominion] has adequately alleged that Lindell made his claims knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth,” Nichols wrote. He separately brushed aside Lindell’s objections over the lawsuit’s venue and the court’s jurisdiction.
Giuliani argued that Dominion hadn’t properly pleaded damages for its defamation claim, in the form of lost profits, but under Washington, D.C. law, the judge noted, “defamation may be actionable as a matter of law irrespective of actual harm.”
“There is no question that Giuliani’s statements accusing Dominion of election fraud constitute defamation per se; if Dominion were an individual, damages would be presumed,” Nichols wrote.
And even if specific damages were required, Nichols said, Dominion has shown them: In the form of the hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s spent on private security to protect its employees, who’ve faced threats and harassment as a result of the Big Lie, as well as other expenses and lost profits.
Reacting to the judge’s denial Wednesday night, a lawyer for Powell said they were disappointed with the ruling but “we now look forward to litigating this case on its merits.”
Lindell, true to form, called the denial “the worst decision a judge has made in the history of this country.” A lawyer for Giuliani did not return TPM’s request for comment.
Dominion has been busy: In addition to the three plaintiffs discussed Wednesday, it also recently filed defamation suits against Newsmax, One America News Network, and ex-Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, a primary funder of various investigations and “audits” of the 2020 election.
Reached for comment Tuesday, Byrne told TPM, “Between Maricopa’s Audit and Lindell’s work in South Dakota, Dominion is haviong [sic] a tough week, and this is their effort to divert attention.”