Dominion Voting Systems is suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for more than $1.3 billion in damages, according a lawsuit filed in D.C. federal court by the company Friday.
The company says that Powell has caused significant damage to its reputation and value by spreading unfounded conspiracy theories about it, including alleged ties to deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez and rigging the election for President-elect Joe Biden. The lawsuit is seeking an injunction to remove all of Powell’s statements determined to be false and defamatory.
The unprecedented lawsuit could be just the first domino in a chain of lawsuits against Trump allies who have spread misinformation about voter fraud — possibly including Donald Trump himself.
Powell is a trial run for Dominion, lawyers suggest.
In its complaint, Dominion accuses Powell of working “in concert” with like-minded media outlets and allies.
Dominion’s lawyer Tom Clare told reporters last week the lawsuit against Powell “is just the first in a series of legal steps.” (The lawsuit also names her law firm and the organization she set up to fundraise for her litigation.)
Dominion sent more than 20 individuals and media companies retraction demands or letters last month asking them to preserve relevant evidence. The recipients included Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and pro-Trump news network One America News. Those requests are often a precursor to litigation.
“To be clear, none of this would have been possible without other individuals and without other media outlets that have their own responsibility,” Clare said. “And we’re looking at all of them.”
The lawsuit against Powell also mentions Trump’s role in amplifying her claims. Both Clare and Dominion CEO John Poulos have said the company isn’t ruling out a suit against Trump
“The Powell suit is a trial run,” Paul Rosenzweig, resident senior fellow, cybersecurity and emerging threats at the R Street Foundation and a former homeland security official, told me. “She obviously does not have $1.3 billion dollars. But there are other people, like for example the Trump campaign, who have a lot more money.”
Vote counting machine company Smartmatic, another target of Powell’s, has also hinted at legal action.
The company issued legal notices and demands for retractions of “dozens of factually inaccurate” statements made by Fox News, Newsmax and OANN last month.
The letters included more than 12 pages of allegedly false statements, including claims Smartmatic owns Dominion. Smartmatic may pursue defamation and disparagement claims, the company said.
“They have no evidence to support their attacks on Smartmatic because there is no evidence,” Antonio Mugica, chief executive of Smartmatic said at the time. “This campaign was designed to defame Smartmatic and undermine legitimately conducted elections.”
A representative of Dominion was unaware of any efforts by Smartmatic to offer support for its lawsuit, either in the form of amicus briefs or other means.
Smartmatic did not return a request for comment on whether it would show support for the Dominion suit or file its own.
Dominion doesn’t intend to settle, showing the case is about more than money.
“We feel that it’s important for the entire electoral process,” Poulos told Emma Brown in an interview. “The allegations, I know they were lobbed against us … but the impacts go so far beyond us.”
That includes threats against his employees. The company said in the lawsuit it has spent more than half a million dollars on security for its personnel who have faced death threats and other harassment since the election. Trump and his allies’ rhetoric around election fraud incited a deadly riot at the Capitol last week, leading to the death of five people.
“The spread of her claims, and the damage that Dominion is alleging, expose Powell to potentially massive liability. But I don’t think that is what is driving Dominion to prefer a trial over settlement,” said Ari Cohn, a free speech and defamation lawyer who is an adjunct fellow at Tech Freedom.
“If I had to guess I would say that [Poulos] wants a very public vindication with a ruling establishing that Sidney Powell defamed them and that her statements were baseless,” said Cohn. “That’s not something you generally get in a settlement agreement.”
The lawsuit turns the table on Powell, who has brought numerous unsuccessful cases trying to overturn the election. The cases leaned heavily on false claims about Dominion despite mountains of evidence disproving them.
“This is about finding a venue to make the affirmative case for the election system,” Rosenzweig told me. “Everything so far has been the negative — Republicans and Trump yelling and screaming and fraud because they can’t prove their case. I think Dominion is looking for place to prove they are secure.”
(Rosenzweig noted the caveat that no election machines are 100 percent secure.)
Even if Dominion wins its lawsuit, Republicans’ long-standing crusade against voter fraud is unlikely to go away.
Both Cohn and Rosenzweig believe Dominion has a strong case against Powell. If the company wins, it could send a message to others to think twice about attacking them.
It’s unlikely to end attacks against voting machines and the election process for good, however, Rosenzweig said.
“I don’t think that the Dominion lawsuit will change Republican minds. What it might do is deter other lawyers from frivolous lawsuits,” he told me. “If Sidney Powell is bankrupt by this, the next Sidney Powell may be deterred.”
Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky links SolarWinds hack to Russian tools.
The findings add to the growing list of evidence indicating Russia was behind the massive hack that affected roughly 10 U.S. federal government agencies and thousands of other SolarWinds clients.
Kaspersky investigators say the malware used in the hack strongly resembled that used by the hacking group Turla, which has been tied to Russian intelligence services by the Estonian government, Jack Stubbs of Reuters reports.
The attacks shared three similarities, showing “more than a coincidence,” said Costin Raiu, head of global research and analysis at Kaspersky. Kaspersky could not definitively tie the attack to the Russian group, noting that hackers sometime mimic other groups.
U.S. intelligence agencies last week said publicly for the first time that Russia was “likely” behind the attack.
A laptop was stolen from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the storming of the Capitol.
The theft adds to the list of devices that were stolen during last week’s riot, Raphael Satter at Reuters reports. The laptop was used for presentations, Pelosi aide Drew Hammill said on Friday.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn also confirmed devices being stolen from their offices. U.S. officials say the thefts could carry “national security equities” but the extent of the threat is unknown.
Some security measures were in place. House administrators remotely locked laptops and shut down wired network access last week during the breach, Eric Geller reported. Senate laptops purchased after 2018 come with encryption. But experts warn that the thefts could still introduce security issues.
Security officials for both chambers are still investigating.
Also, my colleagues have a bombshell report this morning saying that House and Senate security officials refused a request from then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund for the D.C. National Guard to be placed on standby for Jan. 6, the day Congress was set to certify the presidential election results.
“In his first interview since pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, Sund, who has since resigned his post, said his supervisors were reluctant to take formal steps to put the Guard on call even as police intelligence suggested that the crowd President Trump had invited to Washington to protest his defeat probably would be much larger than earlier demonstrations,” my colleagues report.
“If we would have had the National Guard we could have held them at bay longer, until more officers from our partner agencies could arrive,” Sund said.
Democrats could introduce impeachment charges as early as today over Trump’s incitement of a deadly riot and other election interference.
More than 200 Democrats have expressed support for the articles of impeachment, Felicia Sonmez, Mike DeBonis and Juliet Eilperin report.
Democrats have pointed to Trump’s phone call with Georgia officials asking him to find votes as means for impeachment.
“We in the House of the Representatives have got the responsibility to maintain the integrity of the federal election,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) told Jake Tapper on “State of the Union Sunday.”
Others worry an impeachment trial could hinder the success of Biden’s first 100 days
Clyburn said that the House would wait to send the articles to the Senate until after that period — but that could undermine Democrats’ argument that Trump is an immediate danger, aides and lawmakers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the talk told my colleagues.
More cybersecurity reads:
- Washington Post Live will hold a conversation with William Evanina, director of U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center on Tuesday at 2p.m.
- CES will take place virtually from Jan. 11-14
- SANS will hold an event “BIPOC in Cybersecurity Forum: Cloud Security” on Feb. 18 from 11a.m. to 5p.m.
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Chris Krebs calls on Trump to resign: