Fact Check: A Close Look at Team Trump's Dominion Conspiracies
The legal team is making unfounded claims to say that the election was stolen.
Members of the Trump campaign’s legal team have made a series of claims about Dominion Voting Systems and alleged ties to Venezuela in their attempt to cast doubt on the presidential election results.
In a press conference on Thursday, Rudy Giuliani claimed that “many” ballots are calculated overseas and open to hacking as he introduced lawyer Sidney Powell, who attempted to tie Dominion Voting Systems to the Chávez regime in Venezuela.
Many of the claims included errors and overstatements, while others lacked any supporting evidence at all. The press conference was just the latest in an ongoing effort to cast doubt on the results of the November 3 election.
During an interview with Lou Dobbs on Fox News on November 13, Powell claimed voting software from Dominion Voting Systems “was created to produce altered voting results in Venezuela for Hugo Chávez and then shipped internationally to manipulate votes for purchase in other countries including this one.” She also repeated unsubstantiated and debunked claims that Dominion’s voting software altered votes and took votes away from Trump.
Powell appeared on Dobbs’ show again on November 16 and read an affidavit from someone she described as “a high ranking military officer who was present when Smartmatic was designed.” The anonymous individual behind the affidavit claimed that Smartmatic’s software was “designed in a way that the system could change the vote of each voter without being detected.” Powell went on to add that “the Smartmatic software is in the DNA of every vote-tabulating company's software and systems.”
In an appearance on Fox News, Giuliani claimed that Dominion’s software “is done by a company called Smartmatic, a company that was founded by Chávez and by Chávez’s two allies, who still own it.” Giuliani also claimed in an interview on November 12 that “Dominion is a company that’s owned by another company called Smartmatic through an intermediary company named Indra.”
Emerald Robinson, a White House correspondent for Newsmax and frequent source of misinformation, reported Tuesday on Powell’s affidavit. “The latest from the Trump team lawyers over the last 24 hours, or maybe the biggest, is from Sidney Powell,” Robinson said, amplifying the conspiracy tying vote-fixing for Venezuelan President Huge Chavez to the results in the U.S. in 2020, through “a software called Systematic [sic] that was built specifically for Hugo Chavez and his successor to manipulate votes that would not be detected.” Robinson summarized the affidavit, claiming “Systematic software, Smartmatic, excuse me, is essentially the predecessor to all the software that is currently used in every voting machine including Dominion.”
In the Thursday press conference, Giuliani stated: “I don’t think most Americans know that our ballots get calculated—many of them—outside the United States and are completely open to hacking, and completely open to change, and it’s being done by a company that specializes in voter fraud.”
He then introduced Powell, who repeated her allegations about Dominion’s ties to the Chavez regime and elaborated: “The software itself was created with so many variables and so many back doors that can be hooked up to the internet, or a thumb drive stuck in it. … One of its most characteristic features is its ability to flip votes. It can set and run an algorithm that probably ran all over the country to flip a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flipped them to President Biden.”
The Dispatch Fact Check has twice debunked claims that votes for Donald Trump were switched to Biden. And Giuliani’s claim that “many” of our ballots are recorded overseas is baseless. But the claims that Dominion Voting Systems has ties to Venezuela or is owned by Smartmatic are false and warrant inspection.
Dominion Voting Systems was founded in Canada in 2002 by a man named John Poulos. Smartmatic was founded in 1999 in Boca Raton, Florida, as a general device networking company before changing to focus on electronic voting systems in 2000. Both Smartmatic and Dominion deny that Dominion is owned by or uses software developed by Smartmatic. Neither Giuliani nor Powell have offered any evidence to support their claims to the contrary.
Samira Saba, integrated communications director at Smartmatic, told The Dispatch Fact Check that, “During the 2020 U.S. presidential election, we provided technology and software only to Los Angeles County ballot marking devices. We had no involvement, direct or indirect, in any other county or state in the United States.”
Smartmatic was not founded by Chávez either—it was started by three Venezualans named Antonio Mugica, Alfredo Anzola, and Roger Piñate. The company does have some connection to Chávez, though: In its nascent years, Smartmatic was chosen to supply Venezuela with voting technology for its 2004 referendum on Chávez. The association with the Chávez regime, as well as a complicated business structure that obscured who owned the company, led to concerns that the company was too closely tied with Chávez and possibly partly owned by his government when Smartmatic purchased Sequoia Voting Systems, a larger American company in 2005.
In response to these concerns, Smartmatic sold Sequoia in 2007 to “a group of private U.S. investors comprised by Sequoia’s current executive management team, led by Sequoia President & CEO Jack Blaine and the company's Chief Financial Officer, Peter McManemy.”
A 2008 lawsuit revealed Sequoia’s new owners, who incorporated under the name SVS Holdings, had given Smartmatic a $2 million promissory note as a part of the Sequoia purchase and that Smartmatic still owned intellectual property found in Sequoia’s machines.
According to a press statement published by MarketLine, in 2010 Dominion purchased Sequoia's “inventory and all intellectual property, including software, firmware and hardware, for Sequoia's precinct and central count optical scan and DRE voting solutions.” MarketLine also noted that Dominion “retain[ed] Sequoia's facilities in Denver, Colorado and San Leandro, California and will consolidate Sequoia's Jamestown, New York facility with Dominion's existing Jamestown facility in the U.S.” Sequoia, or what was left of the company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2014.
We reached out to Dominion to ask whether any Smartmatic IP was still in use on Sequoia machines it acquired in 2010 or whether it had been removed. Dominion Vice President of Government Affairs Kay Stimson told The Dispatch Fact Check that “no Smartmatic software has ever been used by the company.”
Saba echoed Stimson’s comments, and provided a statement on behalf of Smartmatic to The Dispatch Fact Check saying: “At no time has there ever been any IP License between Smartmatic and Dominion covering either Smartmatic IP, or IP developed by, or belonging to Sequoia Voting Systems during the brief period in which Smartmatic owned Sequoia Voting Systems.”
The Dispatch Fact Check followed up with both companies to ask about whether current software used by Dominion grew out of Smartmatic intellectual property from the Sequoia purchase. Stimson did not respond to emails on the subject and Saba merely stated that Smartmatic was not aware “as we were not party to that transaction.”
Publicly available information suggests that one Sequoia product, the Sequoia ImageCast, is the ancestor of at least one of Dominion’s current products: the Dominion ImageCast Evolution, which has been criticized for potential security flaws. Both the Sequoia ImageCast and the Dominion ImageCast Evolution are joint ballot-marking and optical-scanning voting machines designed to assist handicapped voters who are unable to fill out ballots by hand. What’s more, Dominion’s current suite of products all bear the ImageCast name. However, rather than evidence of any ties between Smartmatic and Dominion, this information vindicates, at least in part, Dominion’s claims of independence from Smartmatic software: Dominion developed ImageCast for Sequoia as a subcontractor for the company after Smartmatic sold Sequoia. The New York Times even referred to the machine as “the Sequoia/Dominion ImageCast” in an article shortly after it was introduced in New York in 2008.
Smartmatic attempted to challenge the sale of Sequoia to Dominion in 2012, claiming that Sequoia’s assets “were acquired for significantly less than their true market worth, in a transaction designed to avoid the payment of deferred consideration due to Smartmatic.” Stimson said in an email to The Dispatch Fact Check that the case was settled out of court and “the companies have had no contact since.”
This was the second lawsuit Smartmatic filed against Dominion. The first lawsuit was about an agreement between the two companies in which Dominion granted a worldwide (outside of the United States and Canada) nonexclusive license to its automated voting technology to Smartmatic, which then attempted to market said technology in Puerto Rico. Stimson said this case was also settled out of court. In addition to the contract that resulted in the first lawsuit, Dominion maintains the legal actions are the “only associations the companies have ever had.”
It’s true that Smartmatic and Dominion both owned Sequoia at different points, and that a lawsuit revealed that Smartmatic IP remained on Sequoia machines after Smartmatic sold Sequoia in 2008. But Powell and Giuliani have offered no evidence to connect the companies as they’ve made their claims, nor have they and other conspiracy theorists provided evidence that Dominion’s vote-tabulating software was created “to produce altered voting results in Venezuela for Hugo Chávez.”
Previous Dispatch Fact Checks about Dominion:
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