Oct 15, 2021 - News

Colorado activist played big role in Donald Trump's "Big Lie"

Photo illustration of Donald trump speaking with quotes from his election night speech in the background
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A far-right activist who hosted a podcast went public with a fantastical claim just weeks ahead of the 2020 election.

Driving the news: Colorado’s Joe Oltmann says he listened to a phone call hosted by left-wing "antifa" activists in September 2020.

  • On the call, Oltmann purports that security director Eric Coomer of Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems said he could fix the vote to guarantee President Trump's re-election defeat.

The claim — denied by Coomer and backed by no evidence — ricocheted through willing conservative media outlets and made its way to the Trump campaign as the basis for its claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Why it matters: The origins of "The "Big Lie" — and the role of the obscure Colorado activist — became apparent in thousands of pages of documents and two days of hearings that concluded Thursday in Denver District Court.

  • The Trump campaign, its former attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, Oltmann and other conservative allies asked a judge to dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed by Coomer.
  • Security was high at the legal hearings with officers posted inside and outside the courtroom.

What's more: The court filings also make clear the Trump campaign determined the allegations against Dominion and other claims of vote-rigging were false — even before Trump, his lawyers and supporters used them to undermine the victory of Joe Biden.

The other side: Oltmann's attorney argued in court that it didn't matter if Coomer was on the call, but whether it was made with a reckless disregard for the truth.

  • An attorney for Giuliani claimed the former New York mayor was just repeating what was in the news from Oltmann and spread by conservative Colorado commentator Michelle Malkin.

The intrigue: Trump's allies are attempting to use a 2019 Colorado law authored by Democrats to toss the case early in the legal proceedings.

  • The anti-SLAPP law is designed to protect free speech and ward off lawsuits from corporations and others meant to silence critics.

What's next: The legal teams will make additional arguments in briefs in the next 60 days, the Colorado Sun reports, before the judge makes her ruling on the request to dismiss the case.

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