Dominion Voting Systems has filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, the Trump campaign lawyer who repeatedly claimed — falsely — that the company’s voting machines were part of a vast election fraud conspiracy against his boss.
Dominion filed the lawsuit in a U.S. District Court on Monday. It’s the company’s latest legal action against those who have peddled the voting machine conspiracy theory on behalf of former U.S. president Donald Trump.
The 107-page complaint accuses Giuliani of defaming Dominion by carrying out a “viral disinformation campaign,” and seeks damages of more than US$1.3 billion.
That’s a high damage claim — even for Giuliani, who confirmed last week that he asked for an unprecedented fee of US$20,000 per day to pursue Trump’s false election fraud case. Giuliani had previously denied asking for the amount.
Giuliani is one of several Trump allies, along with Trump himself, touting the Dominion conspiracy theory. The hoax itself appeared to emerge from the fever swamps of the QAnon conspiracy community last year, and has since penetrated into conservative media and formed the basis for several failed pro-Trump lawsuits.
“For Dominion — whose business is producing and providing voting systems for elections — there are no accusations that could do more to damage Dominion’s business or to impugn Dominion’s integrity, ethics, honesty, and financial integrity,” the lawsuit says.
“Giuliani’s statements were calculated to — and did in fact — provoke outrage and cause Dominion enormous harm.”
Giuliani alleged that Dominion conspired with the Clinton family, Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros and former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez — who died in 2013 — to deny Trump a second term.
Dominion says its founder, his family and many company staffers faced harassment and death threats over the false allegations, which Trump himself amplified before his Twitter account was banned.
Giuliani infamously laid out the conspiracy theory at a press conference on Nov. 19, during which he also offered movie impressions and appeared to sweat through his hair dye while presenting no actual evidence. He also repeatedly peddled the conspiracy theory on Fox News.
Dominion points out in its lawsuit that Giuliani never actually mentioned the company in court, where the penalty for false allegations is higher.
Giuliani is only the latest to face legal action for his role in promoting the Dominion conspiracy theory. Dominion sued pro-Trump (and pro-QAnon) lawyer Sidney Powell for promoting the hoax earlier this year.
“Dominion was not founded in Venezuela to fix elections for Hugo Chavez,” the suit against Giuliani says. “It was founded in 2002 in John Poulos’s basement in Toronto to help blind people vote on paper ballots.”
Giuliani did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press and the New York Times.
Dominion’s lawsuit is the latest setback for a man once known as “America’s Mayor,” who now faces possible disbarment and ejection from the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) for his role in arguing the former president’s baseless claims of voter fraud.
Giuliani lost dozens of court decisions and was rebuked by several judges during his failed two-month campaign against the election result, which failed to produce any proof of systemic voter fraud.
Nevertheless, Giuliani continued to tout the conspiracy theory up until Jan. 6, when he called for a “trial by combat” in a speech to Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., before the U.S. Capitol attack.
“If we’re wrong, we will be made fools of,” Giuliani said, after claiming massive voter fraud in Georgia’s Senate run-off election.
All existing evidence shows he was wrong.
Dominion highlighted Giuliani’s pre-riot comments in its lawsuit, and said they demonstrate the impact of his false claims about the company.
“Having been deceived by Giuliani and his allies into thinking that they were not criminals — but patriots ‘Defend(ing) the Republic’ from Dominion and its co-conspirators — they then bragged about their involvement in the crime on social media,” the lawsuit states.
“From a defamation law perspective, it just demonstrates the depth to which these statements sink in to people,” Dominion lawyer Thomas Clare added in an interview with the New York Times.
“People don’t just read them and tune them out. It goes to the core of their belief system, which puts them in a position to take action in the real world.”
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died as a result of the riot.
— With files from The Associated Press