Sidney Powell’s Legal Defense Exposes the Rot at the Core of Trumpism

After almost six years of diving, we may have finally found the bottom of the barrel.

The latest news on the Trump team is the whole shabby satchel of “Trumpism” itself, tied up in a bow. It’s the burning bag of dog poop left by Trump’s own team on the front porch of all those who decided Trump Twitter was the new gospel. The rot at the core of Trumpism does not get any more stark than this.

“Legal representatives for Sidney Powell, a lawyer aligned with former President Donald Trump who filed numerous lawsuits promoting his quest to overturn the 2020 presidential election on the false basis of election fraud, responded to a lawsuit against her this week by suggesting her allegedly defamatory words shouldn’t be taken as serious by ‘reasonable people,’” reports Chris Walker for Truthout.

In the immortal words of Chuck Palahniuk, we’ve just lost cabin pressure.

The suit in question was filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which has asked for more than $1.3 billion in damages from Powell for her various public anti-Dominion tirades during her efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election on behalf of then-President Trump. Powell, along with co-counsel (and now defense attorney) Lin Wood and a dim constellation of bottom-shelf legal minds, threw ten thousand pounds of bullshit at the courts trying to toss the people’s vote, and failed all the way down the line.

The core of Powell’s argument asserts that the “highly charged and political context of her statements” essentially means those statements are prima facie not to be believed. Her own motion describes her theories as “wild accusations” and “outlandish claims.” Who, therefore, would lend credence to such brazen poppycock? According to Law & Crime, Powell’s arguments against her own legal arguments continue in this vein:

They are repeatedly labelled “inherently improbable” and even “impossible” the motion to dismiss continues, referring to the conspiracy theories peddled by Powell, her law firm and her non-profit group Defending the Republic. “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.”

Here is the distilled essence of Trumpism, bleeding on the platter for all to see: Lie with impunity, then deny your lies, and in extremis claim it doesn’t matter if you lied because you were right to do it anyway… and in the end, those who go along are on their own. Powell and Wood ran their barrage of election lies day after day in courtroom after courtroom after the race was called for Joe Biden. They followed that up with serial right-wing network television appearances, where their lies and fabrications were transmogrified into holy writ within the ossified logic circuits of Trump’s fervent base.

To this day — hell, to this hour — Donald Trump is still fountaining the lies that were peddled by Powell and her team, despite having booted her after she gave one of the most ludicrous pressers in history. You will recall this one from late last November, when Rudy Giuliani appeared to be melting. Powell let fly with false campaign allegations of “massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China and the interference with our elections here in the United States.” According to false claims that Powell made at that press conference, Dominion voting systems “were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez.”

Chavez died in 2013.

There is an adage of internet culture called Poe’s Law, which roughly dictates that it is no longer possible to distinguish between actual right-wing farce and parody of right-wing farce. Powell and Giuliani made this rule axiomatic that day, and still, Trump let Powell back into the White House in mid-December to continue helping him plot the overthrow of the election. This time, she counseled Trump to take a “scorched-earth” approach to obtaining victory. Three weeks later, the Capitol Building was stormed by pro-Trump rioters who believed every word Powell and Trump said.

Now, with that profound stain and a potential $1.3 billion ruling hovering over her, Powell has asked the court to believe that no rational person would believe her. “Chutzpah” does not begin to cover it. I have written often about the power of shamelessness as deployed by the Republican right. This level of shamelessness, however, is straight through the Oort Cloud and out into interstellar space. I have never seen the like.

Meanwhile, numerous Trump loyalists such as Graydon Young, a member of the “Oath Keepers” militia who was amid the mob that sacked the Capitol on January 6, continue to be incarcerated while awaiting trial. “The psychological burdens of being detained pending trial are very real for Mr. Young. Since he has no previous experience with the criminal justice system, being detained is taking an extremely high toll on his mental well-being,” Young’s lawyers filed in a recent motion.

Few outside the circles of those who swaddle themselves in Trumpean faux-heroism will weep many tears for an Oath Keeper who cannot abide the fact that violent actions have immediate consequences. Still, what do you suppose will happen when people like Young hear the argument being put forth by Powell, one of the clarion voices they listened to and believed in the run-up to January’s lethal mayhem? “No reasonable person? But we believed you!

Even now, months after the deal went down, more than two-thirds of Republicans believe in the core arguments that were coughed up by Powell and her crew. Now, according to Powell, two-thirds of the Republican Party are not reasonable people. I’ve made that argument, but you have to wonder how it’s going to taste when they eat it from one of their own.

Finally, there is the Big Man himself to consider.

“Powell’s defense is to throw Trump under the bus,” argues Noah Feldman for Bloomberg News. “The basic idea: He is such a known liar that any assertion made on his behalf in an election can’t be taken as remotely plausible.”

Trump has continued to give wind to Powell’s lies in order to maintain his hold over the party and rake in fundraising cash. Now he is suddenly confronted with one of his own lawyers arguing in court documents that the whole thing was a grift no sensible person would fall for. There is simply no way to square that circle, and though Trump’s people live within a comfortable information bubble, this astonishing argument from Powell is certain to ring more than a few bells way down deep in the cathedral of pride. No reasonable person…

The sagging carcass of Trumpism will surely drag itself on for a while longer, because large things in motion still have inertia even as they crumble and collapse. This is the juncture history will remember, however, one of the most vivid Quiet Part Loud moments modern politics has ever seen.

This article has been updated.