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Kari Lake and the Trump movement’s billion-dollar defamation problem

For
the
second
time
in
eight
months,
a
top
Donald
Trump
ally
has,
extraordinarily,
declined
to
try
to
prove
they
didn’t
defame
an
election
worker.
Arizona
Senate
candidate
Kari
Lake
(R)
has
joined
former
Trump
lawyer
Rudy
Giuliani
in
that
distinction.

The
news
comes
even
as
Trump
owes
more
than
$86
million
after
losing
a
pair
of
defamation
cases
against
a
woman,
E.
Jean
Carroll,
whom
he
has

arguably
continued
to
defame
.

Throw
in
the
$787.5
million
Fox
News
agreed
to
pay
a
voting
machine
company
over
bogus
theories
it
aired
bolstering
Trump’s
stolen-election
claims
and
the
$148
million
judgment
against
Giuliani,
and
the
combined
bill
is
north
of
$1
billion

and
potentially
growing,
thanks
to
Lake’s
capitulation
and

other
lawsuits
.

The
Trump
political
movement
has
long
had
a
truth
problem.
That
has
now
manifested
itself
as
a
very
expensive
defamation
problem.

As
well
as
anything,
these
defamation
cases
lay
bare
just
how
careless
and
demagogic
the
MAGA
movement
has
become.

The
latest
big
news
is
Lake’s
declining
to
defend
her
statements
about
Maricopa
County
Recorder
Stephen
Richer
(R),
whom
she
repeatedly
accused
of
deliberately
sabotaging
her
narrow
2022
loss
for
Arizona
governor.
(Courts
have
repeatedly

rejected
that
argument

and
upheld
Lake’s
defeat.)

As
The
Washington
Post’s
Yvonne
Wingett
Sanchez
and
Maegan
Vazquez

reported

Tuesday,
lawyers
for
Lake,
her
campaign
and
an
affiliated
nonprofit
group
have
asked
the
judge
to
move
directly
to
the
damages
phase

determining
whether
Lake
owes
Richer
money,
and
if
so,
how
much.

The
situation
is
strikingly
reminiscent
of
Giuliani’s
defamation
case
eight
months
ago.
Facing
an
arduous
and
expensive
discovery
process

during
which
Giuliani’s
legal
team
had
to
produce
evidence

Giuliani
ultimately
simply
granted
that
his
statements
about
Georgia
election
workers
Ruby
Freeman
and
Shaye
Moss

were
false
and
even
defamatory
,
before
the
huge
judgment
against
him.

Both
Lake
and
Giuliani
tried
to
put
a
good
face
on
their
capitulations.
Lake
has
cited
the
cost
of
pressing
forward
and
insisted
that
she’s
not
giving
up.
She
also

gamely
insisted

that
defending
her
statements
“would
only
serve
to
legitimize
this
perversion
of
our
legal
system.”

But
it’s
worth
emphasizing
that
moving
directly
to
the
damages
phase
spares
a
defendant
a
fraught
discovery
process,
in
which
their
claims
and
their
private
deliberations
could
be
put
under
a
microscope.

Fox’s
historic
settlement
with
Dominion
Voting
Systems
came
only
after
a
robust
discovery
phase
that
proved
hugely
embarrassing
for
the
network.
The
evidence
showed
that
Fox
executives
and
hosts
understood
the
claims
they
chose
to
air
were
bogus
but
that
they
pressed
forward
anyway.
Repeatedly,
they
cited
a
desire
to
toe
Trump’s
line
and
avoid
alienating
his
supporters.
(You
can

see
the
fruits
of
that
discovery
process
here
.)

The
judge
in
Giuliani’s
case

suggested

that
Giuliani
was
deliberately
shirking
his
discovery
obligations
to
insulate
himself
from
other
civil
and
criminal
cases.
Giuliani
has
also
been
indicted
alongside
Trump
in
the
Fulton
County,
Ga.,
election-subversion
case.

Lake’s
move
is
a
far
cry
from
her
previous
commentary.
In
January,
she
noted
that
“discovery
goes
both
ways,”
adding:
I
TRULY
look
forward
to
that
.
I
stand
by
everything
I’ve
said.
I’ve
always
been
truthful
when
I’ve
talked
about
elections.”

(There
could
still
be
a
discovery
phase
in
the
Lake
lawsuit;
it’s
not
clear
whether
the
judge
will
grant
Lake’s
motion.
And
Richer’s
legal
team
could
push
for
the
process
in
service
of
making
a
point
and
potentially
increasing
the
damages.)

Lake’s
January
comment
is
a
telling
one.
Repeatedly,
Trump-aligned
defendants
in
these
cases
have
hailed
the
discovery
process
as
one
in
which
they
would
not
only
be
vindicated
but
could
prove
the
veracity
of
their
stolen-election
claims.
If
Lake
truly
believes
Richer
rigged
the
election
against
her,
what
better
way
than
to
unearth
his
private
communications?
At
least
one
high-profile
Trump
backer
is

criticizing
Lake
for
giving
up

in
that
quest.

But
as
with
the
many
voter-fraud
lawsuits
that
have
failed,
it’s
become
clear
that
election-deniers
simply
don’t
have
the
evidence
to
back
up
their
claims.
And
at
worst,
the
process
involves
risks
demonstrating
how
craven
they
were
in
spreading
these
claims
in
the
first
place.

What’s
also
important
to
note
here
is
that,
while
these
cases
involve
only
a
handful
of
stolen-election
claims,
they
are
among
the
signature
ones.
The
idea
that
Georgia
election
workers
planted
thousands
of
ballots
was
everywhere,
because
it
was
an
easily
consumable
example
of
purported
mass
voter
fraud.
So,
too,
the
theories
that
voting
machines
rigged
the
election.
Lake’s
claims
about
Maricopa
County
in
many
ways
kept
the
election-denial
movement
going
in
2022,
after
the
GOP

began
shying
away
from
this
kind
of
rhetoric

in
the
aftermath
of
the
Jan.
6,
2021,
attack
on
the
Capitol.

These
cases
are
merely
those
in
which
the
claims
were
specific
enough
to
provide
grounds
for
a
defamation
lawsuit

where
an
individual
party
suffered
an
injury.
Stolen-election
claims
have
been
everywhere,
but
they’ve
rarely
led
a
specific
entity
to
be
targeted
by
Trump
backers.
When
they
have,
the
record
for
election-deniers
is
ugly.

Politics
has
always
involved
stretching
the
truth
about
your
political
opponents.
But
it
tends
to
be
done
with
a
deft
touch
and
plausible
deniability.
What
we
have
today
is
a
movement,
led
by
the

President
of
30,000
False
and
Misleading
Claims
,
that
is
increasingly
shameless
about
spreading
the
thinnest
and
most
debunkable
of
claims
about
supposedly
nefarious
opponents.

The
sum
total:
Serial
defamers
could
figure
heavily
into
the
Republican
Party’s
hopes
of
retaking
both
the
presidency
and
the
Senate.

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