A voting machine manufacturer’s defamation lawsuits may not have any more luck than dozens of post-election court rulings in convincing Donald Trump’s most rabid supporters that he lost the presidential contest fair and square. Still, the lawsuits may send a warning to political operatives that you can’t make up outrageous lies and expect to always get away with it.
Dominion Voting Systems has filed the lawsuits against two of the former president’s attorneys, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The company seeks more than $1 billion from each of them for their public comments about Dominion’s voting machines. The company’s attorneys say they might sue others, including those in the media who gave the Trump attorneys a megaphone to air their outlandish allegations that Dominion swapped votes from Trump to Joe Biden. Some in the media who ran with these stories, including Fox News and Newsmax, have already backed away from their reporting under threat of legal action from the company.
As with any lawsuit, Dominion’s is just one side of a legal argument. Giuliani and Powell will get the opportunity to offer their side. In the likelihood that they will not be able to prove their wild allegations, including that Dominion was founded to rig elections initially for former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, the defendants will argue that their claims, even if false, were legally protected free speech.
We’d be surprised if the lawsuits aren’t settled out of court, despite the early statements from the company’s CEO that he would rather see them go to trial.
Trials would be preferable for civic reasons, too. A full and public airing of the company’s history and an independent evaluation of the accuracy of its machines might help to further debunk the lingering claims that there was something illegitimate about Biden’s victory. It would also be gratifying for those who think truth still matters to see some of the most prominent conspiracy theorists squirm when pressed in court to prove their falsehoods.
Maybe the real courts will be better able to dissuade lying than the court of public opinion has.