Two weeks after the 2020 election, a team of lawyers closely linked to Donald J. Trump held a well-attended press conference at the Republican Party headquarters in Washington. At the event, they exposed a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming that a voting machine company worked with an election software company, financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Mr. Trump.
But there was a problem for the Trump team, according to court documents released Monday night.
By the time the press conference took place on November 19, Mr. Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and separate software company, Smartmatic. The memo determined that these allegations were false.
The court documents, which were originally filed late last week as a motion in a defamation lawsuit brought against the campaign and others by former Dominion employee Eric Coomer, contain evidence that Trump campaign officials knew early on that many of the allegations against the companies were baseless.
The documents also suggest the campaign leaned on its Dominion findings even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in conservative media and ultimately filed four federal lawsuits accusing it of a broad conspiracy to target to rig the election against Mr. Trump.
According to emails in the documents, Zach Parkinson, then deputy director of campaign communications, contacted his subordinates on Nov. 13 asking them to “corroborate or debunk” several cases involving Dominion. The next day, according to the emails, Mr Parkinson received a copy of a memo concocted by his staff from what appear to be largely newspaper articles and public fact-checking services.
Even though the memo was hastily drafted, it refuted a series of allegations Ms Powell and others made in public. He found :
This Dominion did not use voting technology from software company Smartmatic in the 2020 election.
This Dominion had no direct connection with Venezuela or with Mr. Soros.
And that there was no evidence that the Dominion leadership had any ties to left-wing “anti-fa” activists, as Ms. Powell and others had claimed.
As Mr. Coomer’s attorneys wrote in their defamation petition, “the memo produced by the Trump campaign shows that at least internally, the Trump campaign discovered that there was no evidence to support the claims. Dominion conspiracy theories ”and Mr. Coomer.
Even then, many political observers and voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, dismissed the efforts of Ms Powell and other pro-Trump lawyers like Rudolph W. Giuliani as a savage and ultimate attempt to appease a defeated president in denial of his loss. But the false theories they propagated quickly gained traction in the conservative media and endure almost a year later.
It is not known whether Mr. Trump was aware of or saw the memo; Still, the documents suggest his campaign communications staff were silent about what they knew about the claims against Dominion at a time when the allegations were circulating freely.
“The Trump campaign has continued to allow its agents,” the motion reads, “to advance debunked conspiracy theories and defame” Mr. Coomer, “apparently without providing them with their own research debunking those theories.
Mr Coomer, former Dominion’s director of strategy and product safety, sued Ms Powell, Mr Giuliani, the Trump campaign and others last year in Denver district court. He said after the election he was falsely accused by a right-wing podcast host of hacking his company’s systems to secure Mr. Trump’s defeat and then telling left-wing activists that he had done.
Shortly after host Joe Oltmann made these accusations, they were echoed and amplified by Ms Powell and Mr Giuliani, who were part of a self-proclaimed “elite strike force” of leading lawyers. the charge against Joseph R. The victory of Biden Jr.
On November 19, for example, Ms Powell and Mr Giuliani appeared together at the press conference at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and placed Mr Coomer at the center of a plot to hijack the elections by hacking the machines. vote from Dominion. According to Ms Powell’s account that day, the plot included Smartmatic, Venezuelan officials, people linked to Mr Soros and “massive influence of Communist money.”
Ms Powell and Mr Giuliani did not respond to messages seeking comment on the documents. Representatives for Mr. Trump also did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Mr Trump continues to falsely claim that the election was stolen from him, and in recent months Ms Powell and Mr Giuliani have stuck to their claims that the election was riddled with fraud. A lawyer for Mr Giuliani said in a court file last month that at least some of his allegations of electoral fraud were “essentially true”.
And just three weeks ago, Ms Powell told an Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter that the 2020 election was “essentially a bloodless coup where they took over the presidency of the United States without that only one shot is fired “.
It is still unclear how widely the memo was disseminated among Trump campaign staff. According to court documents, Mr. Giuliani said in a deposition that he did not see the memo until he made his presentation in Washington, and he questioned the motives of those who prepared it.
Trump’s attempt to overturn the election
“They wanted Trump to lose because they could raise more money,” Mr. Giuliani said in the deposition.
But at the time the internal report was prepared, both Mr Giuliani and Ms Powell were “active supervisors,” as he said in his testimony, in the larger Trump campaign plan to challenge the results of the elections – an effort that ultimately included more than 60 unsuccessful lawsuits filed across the country. While Ms Powell quickly went her own way in claiming that the Dominion conspired to steal the election, Mr Giuliani continued to work closely with Mr Trump and his campaign, ultimately shifting strategy and seeking to persuade legislatures states to cancel the popular vote.
The motion notes that “the lines were blurry” as to who Ms. Powell was working for at the time: herself, her nonprofit, or the Trump campaign. Almost immediately after promoting the Dominion conspiracy theory at the November press conference, Mr. Trump sought to distance himself from it. But in December, as Mr. Trump’s legal options narrowed, the former president considered bringing her home and discussed whether to appoint her as special counsel overseeing a voter fraud investigation.
The release of the documents was just the latest legal issue for Mr Giuliani and Ms Powell, both of whom were sued directly by Dominion for libel. Dominion also brought a libel action against Mike Lindell, the managing director of MyPillow, for amplifying false election statements. Last month, a federal judge in Washington ruled the cases could continue to head to trial.
Around the same time, a federal judge in Detroit ordered sanctions imposed on Ms Powell and eight other pro-Trump lawyers – Mr Giuliani was not one of them – who filed a lawsuit against to overrule the election results in Michigan using the Dominion misrepresentation.
“This case was never about fraud,” Judge Linda V. Parker wrote in her decision. “It was about undermining the confidence of the people in our democracy and degrading the judicial process to do so. “
In June, a New York court suspended Mr Giuliani’s attorney’s license, ruling that he had made “manifestly false and misleading statements” while challenging Mr Trump’s election results in the year. last.
Even recently, according to new court documents, former Trump campaign officials continued to cling to the baseless idea that the election was tainted with fraud.
When Mr. Coomer’s attorneys asked Sean Dollman, a representative of the Trump campaign, in a deposition whether the campaign still believed the election was fraudulent, he replied, “Yes, sir. “
The lawyers then asked, “What is this opinion based on?”
According to court documents, Mr. Dollman gave a less than certain answer.
“We don’t have any specific underlying facts that it wasn’t,” he said.
Susan dominus, Shay’s castle and Mindy sink contributed reports.