Sued for defamation by the voting-machine vendor in question, Powell is now scoffing in federal court at the idea that anyone could have taken her seriously. “Reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact,” Powell averred in her motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Instead, the allegations that helped to fuel the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol were mere “claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”
When she said, as the nation was spinning into crisis, that she had evidence of “the greatest crime of the century if not the life of the world” — a world that in living memory has witnessed the Holocaust and other unspeakable crimes — Powell meant nothing of the sort, she now admits. That was just politics. Wrapping herself in an earlier court ruling, she quoted the “well recognized principle that political statements are inherently prone to exaggeration and hyperbole.”
In another remarkable contortion, Powell quotes her antagonists at the voting-machine vendor, Dominion Voting Systems, calling her charges “outlandish” and “impossible.” What more proof is needed, she concludes, that folks were onto her fictions and distortions all along?
She had promised a “Kraken,” a fraud so vast and many-tentacled that it would resemble the mythical sea monster, but delivered not so much as a goldfish — and now she’s in court saying, in essence, we should have known all along that Krakens aren’t real. In passing, she says she still believes her own story, but that’s in the context of a 90-page filing that insists no one else ever should have done so.
Powell joins a roster of Stop the Stealers who have tried to wriggle out of their hype. In December, Fox News took the unusual step of airing a video that debunked election-fraud myths during programs hosted by Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo. The right-wing outlet Newsmax likewise backed off.
Don’t be surprised if former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani soon joins the club. He, too, has been sued by Dominion for damages in excess of $1 billion — enough to make a guy sweat his hair dye. Yet another Dominion lawsuit calls out Mike Lindell on his extravagant claims of election fraud. The My Pillow man may want to pull the covers over his head, but sooner or later he is likely to emerge to offer his own strained “never mind.”
Powell’s confession that no reasonable person could take her seriously, even when she is leveling profoundly serious charges, is important in itself. The implications are perhaps even more important. For example, the former president of the United States, who touted Powell’s lawsuits and news conferences via his once-deafening Twitter megaphone, is not a reasonable person. Many of us have known that for years, but it’s useful to hear it from one of his most ardent supporters.
It’s true that Team Trump, and its cowering minions in Congress, eventually parted ways with Powell as her professional demeanor gradually slipped to reveal her tinfoil hat. They took refuge in an abstruse argument over regulatory powers of election officials in assorted states. But the window-smashing, cop-battering, death-chanting mob at the Capitol wasn’t there for a discussion of delegated authority of various secretaries of state. They had swallowed the hash that Powell & Co. were slinging.
And Powell’s brief offers a fresh suggestion of the real reason why this hash was ever slung in the first place. Hype makes the cash register ring, Powell informs the court: “Public disclosure helps gain public and financial support.” In Powell’s case, the “financial support” poured into an affiliated website called Defending the Republic. Giuliani sought his “financial support” in increments of $20,000 per day from the Trump campaign. The former president continues to raise millions for his lightly regulated PAC from his cheerfully hoodwinked supporters.
The Post’s Annie Gowen reported recently on her visit with Jenna Ryan, the Texas real estate agent who touted her business on social media while assaulting the Capitol in January. Now facing federal charges, Ryan said: “I bought into a lie, and the lie is the lie, and it’s embarrassing.” Now she tells us.
Read more from David Von Drehle’s archive.