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Sidney Powell Dismisses Lawsuit Defense 'Fake News,' Doubles Down on Conspiracies

Newsweek logo Newsweek 3/24/2021 David Brennan
a group of people wearing costumes: A QAnon sign is seen as President Donald Trump supporters hold a rally on January 5, 2021 in Washington, D.C. © Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images A QAnon sign is seen as President Donald Trump supporters hold a rally on January 5, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Sidney Powell, a central cog in Donald Trump's 2020 election disinformation machine, has disputed "fake news" media reports that she disavowed a prominent conspiracy theory in court filings, promising to continue her battle against the result.

Powell is facing a defamation lawsuit from ballot infrastructure company Dominion Voting Systems, which she and other Trump backers have claimed ran a sophisticated fraud campaign with help from the socialist regime in Venezuela and election officials in Georgia.

Earlier this week, Powell's attorneys submitted a filing arguing that "no reasonable person" would believe this conspiracy theory. The document said Powell's claims about Dominion were only her "opinion" on which the public could reach "their own conclusions."

The filing sparked confusion, anger and concern among her devotees online, particularly on the Telegram and Gab social media apps, which are popular with far-right extremists and QAnon believers.

Powell posted a message to supporters in her Telegram channel on Tuesday evening walking back what was in the court filing. "The #FakeNews is lying to everyone about our filings in the Dominion case," she wrote to her 473,000 subscribers.

"My position has not changed. We will be taking them to the mat. Sidney." The post has been viewed more than 297,000 times and garnered hundreds of supportive comments.

While battling the Dominion lawsuit, Powell is still sharing easily debunked disinformation with her supporters. On Monday, she forwarded a screenshot of a supposed electoral fraud confession by Ruby Freeman to her channel.

Conspiracy theory supporters—Trump included—have focused on Freeman, a Georgia election worker who counted ballots in the State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. The conspiracy theory alleges, with no evidence, that Freeman filed thousands of fake ballots that swung the vote to President Joe Biden.

The screenshot of the December Instagram post was forwarded via Patrick Byrne, another member of the team pushing Trump's doomed challenge of the election result. It was also shared by fellow Trump attorney Lin Wood.

But the "confession" came from an Instagram account called "rubyfreeman_georgia," which was deleted soon after the post. The account biography described the page as a "parody account," adding: "The posts you saw on Twitter about this account are fake and this was never Ruby."

Powell, Wood and Byrne have become heroes among diehard Trump supporters and QAnon believers who refuse to accept Biden's victory. Reports about the chaos in the White House as Trump fought the result put Powell alongside advisers such as Michael Flynn, who was urging the president to declare martial law to overturn the election.

Despite her Telegram declarations, Powell's court filing suggests her legal team knows she has few remaining options. "Given the highly charged and political context of the statements, it is clear that Powell was describing the facts on which she based the lawsuits she filed in support of President Trump," her lawyers wrote.

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"Indeed, Plaintiffs themselves characterize the statements at issue as 'wild accusations' and 'outlandish claims.' They are repeatedly labelled 'inherently improbable' and even 'impossible.'

"Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support Defendants' position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process."

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