At this point, though, even if judges or state bar associations do hand down sanctions against lawyers involved in these cases, those repercussions will be too little, too late. The president is busy creating a parallel world for his supporters in which he never lost the election and Joe Biden is not the rightful leader of the United States—what Vox’s Ezra Klein termed “an autocracy-in-exile.” Already, far-right news networks such as One America News and Newsmax are profiting from this effort, siphoning viewers away from Fox News by enthusiastically embracing Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Half of Republicans already believe that Trump triumphed over Biden. “That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” Chris Krebs, the former cybersecurity official fired by Trump for refusing to lie about the 2020 election’s integrity, tweeted of Giuliani and Powell’s appearance last week.
There is value to preserving the courtroom as a space where lies deflate. As Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate, the “dull workaday evaluation of the difference between facts and falsehoods is still usually the best cure for the madness of this current moment.” And perhaps courts and state bars will decide that sanctions are needed to reaffirm their commitment to evaluating that difference. Yet despite how swiftly Trump’s legal effort has collapsed under judicial scrutiny, Giuliani and Powell are onto something. You don’t actually need to win in court if your main goal is to sow doubt and make headlines.