This week, Donald Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell filed an eye-popping brief that, according to experts, would doom her chances of dismissing a $1.3 billion defamation suit and provide ammunition in a separate lawsuit seeking her disbarment.
Powell, who repeatedly made unfounded claims of voter fraud on the airwaves and in court, now says that “reasonable” people would not accept her statements as “fact.”
It was a stunning admission that could put her in real legal jeopardy as she fights the defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems — a manufacturer that provides election equipment used by more than 40% of US voters — as well as a motion for sanctions in Michigan as a part of a case she brought there alleging election fraud.
First Amendment expert Ted Boutrous of Gibson Dunn told CNN that the legal implications for Powell could be dire.
“The First Amendment provides strong protections for statements of opinion,” he told the network. “But what Dominion is pointing to is the fact that Ms. Powell was declaring that she had evidence of this fraud and this election malfeasance and she was declaring that as a matter of fact.”
“The First Amendment doesn’t protect knowingly false statements of fact,” Boutrous added.
Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at NYU Law, said that Powell is now in a “difficult position.”
“Even opinions can be defamatory if they imply facts that are false and Powell knew it or recklessly disregarded the truth or falsity of the implied facts,” Gillers told CNN. “Her problem is that her defense in the defamation case is going to sink her in the Michigan case.”
Michigan’s attorney general Dana Nessel said Tuesday night that Powell’s statements and the lawsuits she filed were meant to undermine the election.
“The damage that this individual, this woman had done and her cohorts who filed these cases along with her is untold,” she said. “And who knows how or when this damage can possibly be undone,” Nessel added, according to CNN.