Sidney Powell conducts a news conference at the Republican National Committee on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Thursday, November 19, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
In the weeks and months after the November 2020 election, Sidney Powell led former President Trump’s legal campaign to overturn the election, proudly proclaiming that her “Kraken” lawsuits, which were filled with lies and conspiracies drawn straight from the QAnon message boards, would see Trump emerge victorious.Now, facing disbarment and several billion-dollar lawsuits, Powell is ready to admit that “perhaps” her claims were simply not true.
Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it's causing, and what we should do about it.
The admission came in a brief filed Monday to the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Sixth District, and was signed by Powell and her fellow Kraken lawyer Howard Kleinhendler. It was filed on behalf of several other Kraken lawyers, though notably not pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood, who is also a party to this case.Back in August, District Court Judge Linda Parker eviscerated Powell and her fellow Krakenites, saying “this lawsuit represents a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process. It is one thing to take on the charge of vindicating rights associated with an allegedly fraudulent election. It is another to take on the charge of deceiving a federal court and the American people into believing that rights were infringed, without regard to whether any laws or rights were in fact violated. This is what happened here.”Parker’s ruling came after the City of Detroit and the state of Michigan, both of whom were named as defendants in the original Kraken lawsuit, asked for sanctions to be brought against Powell and her colleagues. In August’s devastating opinion, Parker ordered the Kraken team to attend continuing legal education courses and cover some of the defendants’ legal fees. She also referred the lawyers for “possible suspension or disbarment.”
Powell had argued at the time that she was under no obligation to thoroughly research the claims she made about voter fraud in the lawsuit, but in this week’s filing, Powell and Kleinhendler casually admit that everything they had been saying may not actually be true–but because lots of people were saying it at the time, they decided to include it.“Millions of Americans believe the central contentions of the complaint to be true, and perhaps they are,” the pair wrote in the briefing, admitting they are no longer sure of the veracity of those claims.This is far from the bombastic Powell who boldly stated “I’m going to release the Kraken” in November 2020, when she seemed absolutely sure that her allegations were true. But then again, a couple of billion-dollar lawsuits can have a chilling effect on your willingness to spout conspiracy theories.The four cases that made up the “Kraken” lawsuits were laughed out of court instantly because of the unfounded allegations made in them, as well as their numerous typos and grammatical errors—like the time Powell twice misspelled the word “district,” and in different ways, in the same sentence.
Powell and Kleinhendler’s lack of attention to detail struck again this week. Within hours, the court rejected the document due to a litany of structural and punctuation errors, highlighting once again that Powell and her team are their own worst enemies.But even before the filing was made, it was clear that Powell’s team was struggling to meet the court’s requirements. According to court records reviewed by VICE News, just one minute before she filed the 86-page document, Powell asked the court to grant a motion allowing her to exceed the 13,0000-word limit on such documents.So in the end, how much over the mark was Powell? Just a paltry 4,681 words.The document was also structured incorrectly and contains mislabeled document references—leading Mike Dunford, a lawyer who has tracked this case closely, to suggest the Kraken lawyers are trying to hide something. Additionally, the list of defendants at the very beginning of the document failed to mention four of the five defendants listed in the original District Court case.
Kleinhendler told VICE News the issues required “minor correction[s]” and said he would make the necessary changes in order to refile by the Feb. 15 deadline set by the court. Powell did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
Last year Powell’s legal team argued, in a response to a $1.3 billion lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, that “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact”—statements like Powell’s oft-repeated claims that votes entered on Dominion voting machines for Trump were switched to votes for Joe Biden.And yet, despite appearing to admit that what she presented to the court was not in fact accurate, Powell and her colleagues are still arguing that they should be allowed to bring forward the lawsuit.“Sanctioning lawyers for bringing such cases because they have not crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’, at the time they file the complaint will deter future lawyers from bringing such cases, casting a chilling pall over such advocacy. Attorneys are not required to have any evidence—sworn or otherwise—beyond a client’s say-so before bringing suit,” Powell and her colleagues say in the briefing document.The lawyer’s main argument appears to be that because everyone believed what was in the lawsuit (not everyone believed it), there is no onus on them from conducting any sort of investigation into the allegations being made (that’s also not true).Crossing every ‘t’ is one thing, but what Powell’s argument fails to mention is that she and her colleagues willfully ignored the fact that one of the main sources of alleged voter fraud cited in the lawsuit was not a military intelligence expert as they claimed, but was in fact an army mechanic. Powell failed to inform the court of this oversight even after his identity was revealed by the Washington Post.
Throughout the document the Kraken team make personal attacks on Judge Parker, accusing her of “fulminations,” “lavish outrage,” a “one-sided effort to paint Appellants as scoundrels bent on deceiving the court,” and writing a “blunderbuss opinion, sanctioning lawyers for building a case on scant evidence augmented by intuition.”But in the end, when all else failed, they fell back on Shakespeare to attack the judge, comparing her to Dick the Butcher, the villain in the bard’s play Henry IV, who utters the famous line “kill all the lawyers.”“In the canonical account of treachery towards a sovereign, it is one of the supporters of the pretender to the throne who proposes, ‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,’” Powell and Kleinhendler wrote, before quoting an article from the Florida Bar Journal to argue that the bard was actually defending lawyers.“That is because ‘Shakespeare knew that lawyers were the primary guardians of individual liberty in democratic England,’” their brief continues. “Americans know this too. Sanctions are not a saber but the resulting damage to civil society is the same. Shutting down speech is not our way.”Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.