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‘Not relevant’: Federal court hands MyPillow and Lindell a loss when it comes to compelling ‘attenuated at best’ testimony of DOJ and ex-DNI officials in Dominion lawsuit

Mike Lindell gives a thumbs-up as he passes by a rally for supporters of former President Donald Trump, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

A Minnesota pillow magnate has been barred from enforcing subpoenas against two government-affiliated individuals he hoped to use for the basis of his defense against defamation claims.

The underlying controversy would be familiar to readers as the $1.3 billion lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against MyPillow and their CEO Mike Lindell. The stalwart Donald Trump ally repeatedly and baselessly accused two voting machine companies of rigging the 2020 presidential election against the 45th president.

In November 2022, the first subpoena was filed against John Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence — despite no prior involvement in the lawsuit on either side. Then, in June 2023, My Pillow, Inc. filed a motion to compel the testimony of Department of Justice attorney, Carlotta Wells. The career government lawyer, again, was not previously involved in the civil dispute between the voting machine companies and the bedding retailer up to that point.

The U.S. government sharply protested — saying neither Negroponte nor Wells had anything particularly important to add, that anything they could say might very well be privileged and subject to state secrets protections, and arguing the two should, in any event, not be compelled to testify in a case they had nothing to do with.

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    Now, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has agreed with the federal government on Wells’ and Negroponte’s behalf.

    “The United States has met its burden to show that compliance with the subpoenas would pose an undue burden on Wells and Negroponte,” the court found in a 15-page memorandum opinion.

    “In sum, Lindell has failed to establish the requested discovery is relevant in to any claim or defense,” the opinion reads later on.

    The pillow company’s requests, however, are not totally out of the blue. Lindell, for his part, maintains his statements about the voting companies — and their alleged technological perfidy — were true.

    “He claims that he received information from other people, and then directly from Dennis Montgomery, that led him to make these statements,” the court notes. “According to Lindell, Montgomery had provided computer programming services many years ago to the U.S. government through the contract Montgomery’s company, eTreppid, had with the federal government.”

    Eventually, the software company and its former software designer/co-owner got into a 2006 legal dispute about software. And, in that case, Wells worked as trial counsel for the government.

    In that software dispute, the DOJ was compelled to become a third party after the plaintiff filed a cross-claim against the Department of Defense in order to have a court declare that an earlier classified nondisclosure agreement “did not preclude him from disclosing information allegedly necessary to his claims and defenses.” Wells argued for the government in that case, successfully preventing Montgomery from relaying “state secrets” in order to vindicate certain allegations against his former company. The case settled in 2009.

    The court summarizes the information Lindell wants to use:

    (1) Mr. Montgomery participated in the development of software technology that can be used to penetrate electronic election equipment and manipulate vote totals; (2) this technology was tested and found to work; (3) the technology was developed and was operational prior to 2020; (4) the technology at some point passed into the possession of individuals outside the CIA; and (5) the technology was used to manipulate elections outside the United States prior to 2020.

    “Lindell claims the testimony he seeks from Wells and Negroponte will ‘corroborate’ the information upon which Lindell relied when he made the statements at issue in Dominion’s Complaint,” according to the court.

    In Wells’ case, Lindell says there were interactions she had with Montgomery between approximately 2006 and 2011 he intends to ask about. In Negroponte’s case, Lindell admits the former DNI head never personally interacted with Montgomery but instead wants to ask him about two 2006 declarations regarding Montgomery’s company’s work for the government.

    In both instances, Lindell says, the information he wants bears upon “the reasonability/plausibility/inherent improbability of the information on which [he] relied when making the allegedly defamatory statements,” and “tends to strengthen the plausibility and likelihood of the information” he relied upon.

    The court says this is all too far afield.

    “The testimony that Lindell seeks from Wells and Negroponte is not relevant to a claim or defense in the Dominion Litigation,” the opinion reads.

    The court says the “attenuated at best” relationship between the two would-be witnesses and the defamation lawsuit they want nothing to do with is simply not enough to override the government’s privilege claims and any lingering state secrets concerns.

    “First, as Lindell does not dispute, Wells and Negroponte do not have any personal or direct knowledge regarding the allegedly defamatory statements at issue,” the opinion goes on. “At most, because Lindell claims that he made his statements about Dominion in part based on what he ‘heard’ from and about Montgomery related to Montgomery’s work with the U.S. Government, the only potential knowledge that Wells and Negroponte possess is information from almost twenty years ago about Montgomery’s work with the U.S. Government in an unrelated matter.”

    The court then puts a fine point on their reasoning:

    Put another way, testimony from Wells and Negroponte about why the United States sought and enforced a protective order in unrelated litigation almost 20 years ago is irrelevant to this case because it is not the actual basis for Lindell’s statements about Dominion vis-à-vis the 2020 election. That Lindell did not seek to verify the information he “received” and “heard” about Montgomery’s work with the U.S. Government when making his statements related to the 2020 U.S. election does not now make that information relevant.

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    The post ‘Not relevant’: Federal court hands MyPillow and Lindell a loss when it comes to compelling ‘attenuated at best’ testimony of DOJ and ex-DNI officials in Dominion lawsuit first appeared on Law & Crime.