Pro-Trump legal crusade peppered with bizarre blundersDecember 3, 2020
Sidney Powell released the Kraken. And it turns out the mythological sea beast can’t spell, is terrible at geography and keeps mislabeling plaintiffs in court.
A congressional candidate Powell claimed to represent in one lawsuit said that, in fact, he had nothing to do with Powell or her quixotic effort, which she dubbed “the Kraken,” arguing the election was stolen from President Donald Trump. An expert witness cited in another suit named a nonexistent county in Michigan. A Wisconsin lawsuit sought data on alleged irregularities at a voting center in Detroit, which is in Michigan. And a filing in federal district court signed by Powell misspelled “district” twice in the first few lines.
The sloppy mistakes aren’t just a sideshow, despite Powell’s quip on Twitter when a POLITICO reporter took note of the mangled words: “No extra charge for typos.” Judges also have been flummoxed by the procedural moves and errors committed by Powell, who was booted from Trump’s legal team in November but still is crusading to overturn the election results.
“While the caption of the motion includes the word ‘emergency’ and the attached proposed order seeks an ‘expedited’ injunction, neither the motion nor the proposed order indicate whether the plaintiffs are asking the court to act more quickly or why,” Pamela Pepper, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, wrote in an order issued on Wednesday. “As indicated, the motion does not request a hearing. It does not propose a briefing schedule.”
Yet despite the deficiencies of her legal efforts, Powell’s mythology has gained traction with a slice of the MAGA orbit, from well-known Trump allies like former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a Powell client who last week won a presidential pardon, to hundreds of attendees at a Wednesday rally Powell and fellow Trump-supporting lawyer Lin Wood held in Georgia. They solicited donations and urged Republicans to withhold their votes from the GOP senators engaged in January runoffs in the state, saying they have been insufficiently supportive of Trump, whom both senators back.
The call set off a wave of concern among Republicans trying to defend their Senate majority. But Trump himself is giving oxygen to some of Powell’s theories, alluding to them during a 45-minute speech he posted online later on Wednesday. Trump claimed votes were switched by voting machines — a debunked conspiracy theory that’s at the center of Powell’s case.
Powell and Wood allege a vast conspiracy in which states’ electronic voting systems have been manipulated by a company with ties to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. What has set them apart from Trump’s official legal team, which has offered similarly unsupported claims of fraud, is their willingness to accuse sitting Republican officials of committing crimes to aid Biden’s election.
“We will give all our evidence to the Department of Justice as soon as we get it pulled together,” Powell said at the rally. “I wish I could say I didn’t have concerns about how that would be handled, but unfortunately I still do.”
Federal and state officials have described the allegations as absurd and lacking any concrete evidence. Georgia election officials pleaded with Republicans across the country to call out the baseless claims. On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr became the latest to reject the idea that evidence of widespread fraud has been discovered.
“There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results,” Barr said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier in the week. “And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”
Powell acknowledged the errors in an email but dismissed them as “typos” and said they’re the result of round-the-clock work and will be corrected “as needed.”
“Humans make mistakes. We’re human beings. We will correct them as needed and appropriate,” she said. “Wish we had you working 22 hours a day like our little team is to help proofread and get it all right.”
“It does not change the substance of the claims or the evidence,” she continued. “Perhaps you all should consider focusing on the evidence and facts instead of typos.”
But the evidence Powell cites, mainly from affidavits filed by election volunteers, observers and outside analysts, has similarly failed to show the fraud she claims should not only overturn the election but give it to Trump in a landslide.
At least twice, Powell has sued on behalf of a party that did not agree to be a part of the case. In a filing in Wisconsin, Powell included Derrick Van Orden, a Republican candidate who narrowly lost to Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), as a plaintiff. But Van Orden said he had nothing to do with the suit in a statement on Twitter.
“I learned through social media today that my name was included in a lawsuit without my permission,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “To be clear, I am not involved in the lawsuit seeking to overturn the election in Wisconsin.” Van Orden, who could not be reached by POLITICO, told the AP that he had spoken with someone in Powell’s office about the case but had not given permission to be added to it, and he tried calling her to ask to have his name removed but couldn’t get through.
It was the second time Powell had done this. In a suit in Georgia, she listed Cobb County Republican Party Chair Jason Shepherd as a plaintiff, acting on behalf of the local party. Shepherd initially put out a statement saying she had done so preemptively and without his final sign-off, though Shepherd and the county party then agreed to stay on the suit.
Meanwhile, in a suit in Michigan, Powell included a “decleration” [sic] from a so-called cybersecurity expert, Navid Keshavarz-Nia, that hits on a popular conspiracy theory — Hammer and Scorecard — alleging that vote totals were hacked.
Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency whom Trump fired for declaring the election secure, called this particular conspiracy theory “nonsense.” But in his declaration, Keshavarz-Nia alleges a pattern of improbable vote reporting in “Edison County, MI” that backs up his theory.
The only problem: No county by that name exists in Michigan.
In the Wisconsin lawsuit that incorrectly included Van Orden as a plaintiff, the suit asks for a judge to order the “immediate production of 48 hours of security camera recording of all rooms used in the voting process at the TCF Center.” But the TCF Center is not in Wisconsin. It is in Detroit, and was the center of other election-related conspiracy theories.
Another brief from Powell in the Wisconsin case misattributes Biden’s margin of victory in the state to Georgia, writing “Biden has been declared the winner of Georgia’s General Election for President by a difference of 20,585 votes.” The brief also mixes up the two states at one point.
“Defendants failed to administer the November 3, 2020 election in compliance with the manner prescribed by the Georgia legislature,” reads the memorandum targeting Wisconsin election officials who are defendants in the case. “This conduct violated Plaintiffs’ equal protection and due process rights as well their rights under Wisconsin law.”
A lawsuit filed by Wood, a Powell collaborator, made a similar mistake. A suit he filed in Georgia included an affidavit from Russell James Ramsland Jr., who represented himself as a security expert. But, while alleging some type of fraud in Michigan, he instead included towns that are from Minnesota, which was first noticed by the conservative Powerline Blog. In the Michigan case from Powell, she calls Ramsland an “expert witness,” with a new affidavit that does include towns that are actually in Michigan.
Powell has also misrepresented government documents. The Georgia lawsuit alleges that “a certificate from the Secretary of State was awarded to Dominion Voting Systems but is undated,” attaching a copy of the certificate.
The reality is more prosaic. As Reuters first reported, the actual certificate from the secretary’s office is both dated and publicly available online.