Image courtesy of CNN
By Eva Lynch
February 13 saw the failure of the House of Representatives’ second attempt at impeaching former President Donald Trump. However, the legal challenges for Trump and his allies are far from over and show the lasting effects of placing loyalty to the president over duty to the people, even after that president has left office.
There are currently several lawsuits being taken against Trump allies, for a variety of reasons, including some related to claims of election fraud and some related to the January 6 insurrection.
Attorney Rudy Giuliani’s name has long been associated with Trump’s, especially when the former president entered office, and even more so when Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team during his first impeachment. Though the two had a recent falling out, Giuliani’s comments towards the end of Trump’s tenure rarely swayed from Trump’s opinions; this allegiance now has legal ramifications for the former mayor of New York.
Last week, Giuliani was among those slapped with a $2.7 billion lawsuit from the voting technology giant Smartmatic. Others included in the suit are pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell, Fox News as a whole, and some of the networks’ headliners, including Lou Dobbs, who remains under contract with Fox News but has been taken off the air until further notice. Fox has also debuted several segments debunking claims of election fraud made by its own hosts. Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo were also named.
The lawsuit cites slander by each of those accused, intentional in nature and for the purpose of undermining voting technology and bolstering Trump’s own allegations that the election was stolen from him.
“They needed a villain,” the lawsuit said. “They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.”
A Fox News spokesperson responded on behalf of the network and the hosts named in the lawsuit.
“FOX News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion,” the statement said. “We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court.”
In his own response, Giuliani displayed a characteristic attitude of pride and composure.
“The Smartmatic lawsuit presents another golden opportunity for discovery. I look forward to litigating with them,” said the attorney.
Giuliani’s feathers, however, seemed far more ruffled by a $1.3 billion defamation suit by Dominion, yet another voting technology powerhouse claiming its assets and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of government contracts were jeopardized by Giuliani’s and others’ spread of a “Big Lie” to a large and impressionable audience.
The “Big Lie” in question is significantly convoluted, and its alleged major players include Venezuelan communists, the Republican governors of Georgia and Arizona, and several others who were surprised to see themselves named in the suit.
“Just as Giuliani and his allies intended, the Big Lie went viral on social media as people tweeted, retweeted, and raged that Dominion had stolen their votes. While some lies — little lies — flare up on social media and die with the next news cycle, the Big Lie was different,” lawyers for Dominion wrote in the lawsuit, filed in DC District Court on Monday morning. “The harm to Dominion’s business and reputation is unprecedented and irreparable because of how fervently millions of people believe it.”
Giuliani called Dominion’s suit an “act of intimidation” in an effort to “censor the exercise of free speech.”
Powell, who was a cornerstone of Trump’s post-election team aimed at overturning the contended results until she was publicly disavowed by the campaign after her work became too polarizing, responded briefly to a similar suit from Dominion, calling it “baseless.”
Powell previously made comments in support of a conspiracy theory in which actually baseless accusations were made against Republican officials for their alleged involvement in a quid pro quo scheme to manipulate voting machines. Days after these allegations were publicly made, Giuliani was among those who publicly repudiated Powell’s position on the Trump legal team at all.
Among the more surprising of the Trump allies under legal fire for loyalty to the former president is Mike Lindell, better known as the “My Pillow Guy.” Dominion is suing Lindell in a $1.3 billion lawsuit for defamation in baseless comments made about faulty technology as the cause for a stolen election.
“Lindell — a talented salesman and former professional card counter — sells the lie to this day because the lie sells pillows,” said the Dominion court filings.
Lindell’s response seems to suggest he harbors more hostility towards Trump than towards the voting technology company; he came into the spotlight towards the end of Trump’s presidency and quickly became a close friend and confidante for the president as outrage and insurrection swept the country before his departure. Lindell was reportedly central to talks about imposing martial law during the more volatile moments after the election.
“I lost 20 retailers, and it’s cost me $65 million this year that I won’t get back, OK?” Lindell said. “There’s your story. Print it right. Don’t try and twist this.”
Last up on the legal docket is an NAACP case, brought on behalf of Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, against Trump and Giuliani, as well as two radical groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, in regards to their role in inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. According to the NAACP website, “the lawsuit alleges that, by preventing Congress from carrying out its official duties, Trump, Giuliani, and the hate groups directly violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act.”
The KKK Act was controversial at the time of its passing and was aimed at allowing federal intervention in the event that hate and other organized groups pose a real threat to American citizens. In the same post, the NAACP also cited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s encouragement of litigation against Trump at the end of his second impeachment trial.
“We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one,” McConnell said.
This lengthy docket of suits against Trump and his allies seems to suggest that his real legal trouble, civil and criminal, is beginning after his tenure and two impeachments. New York lawyers are investigating his finances and tax returns, and Georgia attorneys have opened an investigation into his interference in the state’s election proceedings.
Trump has not commented beyond the surrogacy of spokespeople, whose comments do not extend beyond denying his involvement in the January 6 riots and a current working relationship with Giuliani. Arguably, we might be seeing more commentary from the former president had his Twitter not been banned permanently on January 8.