Sidney Powell’s plea deal could be a threat to Trump | ET REALITY


Just two weeks after Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election, attorney Sidney Powell joined the cause of keeping him in office during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters.

Standing next to Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Trump’s closest allies, Powell espoused an absurd conspiracy theory. He told the world that a voting machine company called Dominion had worked with a liberal financier and Venezuelan intelligence to divert votes from Trump to his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The baseless claims about Dominion are ultimately at the center of a series of federal lawsuits Powell filed challenging Trump’s defeat. And although the Trump campaign later disavowed her, rebuking her claims as unbelievable, she soon returned to Trump’s orbit, joining him in a meeting in the Oval Office to discuss a brazen plan to seize the country’s voting machines and repeat actually the elections. .

On Thursday, in a move that caught the former president and his advisers by surprise, Powell pleaded guilty to election interference charges in Georgia and agreed to testify against the other defendants in the case, including Trump.

The unexpected development was a significant victory for Fani T. Willis, district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, who brought the election case this summer. But it was arguably even more important for Trump, as it marked the first time that someone closely linked to his attempts to remain in power reached a cooperative agreement with authorities.

It is not yet clear what Powell might say about Trump if she is asked to testify against him. But if he takes the stand in his Georgia election trial, he could shed light on a series of tactics he undertook to stay in power despite the will of the voters.

News of his deal, which emerged without warning during a court hearing in Atlanta on Thursday, also raised other questions: Would he also lend his help to federal prosecutors who brought their own election case against Trump in Washington, one in which? Did she appear as an unindicted accomplice? And would any other figure in the case be willing to take similar deals (Ms. Powell pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and was sentenced to probation) with prosecutors?

Two people with ties to Trump’s orbit suggested that Powell might be a more problematic trial witness than she appears, given her history of outlandish statements. Others, however, suggested that prosecutors should be sure that she has compelling evidence they can use against her co-defendants.

“You don’t give a no-jail deal unless that person has something very good to say that helps their case against others,” said Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor who is challenging Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. . he told a reporter in New Hampshire shortly after the deal with Ms. Powell was closed.

Until now, the only people known to have reached cooperative agreements in Trump’s four criminal cases were relatively minor figures.

In September, Scott Hall, a Georgia bail bondsman charged with Trump and 17 others in the Georgia election case, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against his co-defendants.

A few weeks earlier, federal prosecutors who accused Trump of illegally withholding dozens of classified documents and then obstructing the government’s attempts to recover them gained the cooperation of Yuscil Taveras, one of Trump’s IT experts. Taveras told investigators about an attempt to force him to delete surveillance footage that was integral to the investigation.

Trump likes to maintain some control in everything related to him, and the news that Powell could potentially take a stance against him was an unwelcome development. Still, people who spoke to him described him as more focused on the New York attorney general’s case against him than on Ms. Powell’s statement, although they admitted he was concerned about that.

Officials have long maintained that prosecutors working under Willis and those working for special counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing Trump’s federal prosecutions, have not coordinated their efforts even though their separate cases involve many of the same actors and cover substantially similar ground. That makes it difficult to know whether Powell could eventually reach a deal with Smith like he did with Willis.

Even if Mr. Smith subpoenaed Ms. Powell as a witness in his case, she could refuse to testify exercising her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in Washington even though she had effectively waived those rights in Georgia. That said, any testimony Ms. Powell gives about her from her stand in Fulton County could, in theory, be used against her if Mr. Smith ultimately decided to press charges against her.

Still, Powell’s new role as a cooperating witness in Georgia presents a potentially serious threat to Trump given that he is in a position to speak firsthand about a variety of schemes he and his allies undertook to subvert the democratic process. His testimony could also lend legitimacy to efforts to prosecute other people close to Trump, including Giuliani, who, like Powell, is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal election case.

While Powell rushed to Trump’s aid almost as soon as he lost the presidential race, she had been on his radar for months before that. She had spoken to him privately early in his presidency, while defending his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in a case stemming from the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and 2016 and the Russians.

People close to Trump said he had taken a liking to what he perceived as her courage.

But after Election Day 2020, Powell became better known for filing lawsuits accusing Dominion Voting Systems of working with an expanding cast of characters to rig the election against Trump.

Powell also joined Giuliani at an infamous press conference in mid-November 2020. There, as dark rivulets of liquid dripped down Giuliani’s face, Powell pushed his theories about a vast conspiracy of “globalist dictators” and “corporations.” who were working against Trump.

Trump, sitting with a group of aides the next day, received a call from Powell during which she reiterated those claims, according to the report from the House select committee investigating his efforts to subvert the election results. “As she spoke, the president muted his speaker and laughed at Powell, telling others in the room, ‘This sounds crazy, doesn’t it?’” according to testimony cited in the panel’s report.

Although the Trump campaign soon distanced itself from her, saying she was “practicing law on her own,” Powell approached Trump again within weeks. He joined Flynn and others in a wild meeting in the Oval Office where they tried to convince Trump to use the military to take control of voting machines across the country. As part of that discussion, Ms. Powell sought to be appointed special prosecutor with extraordinary powers to investigate alleged election fraud.

Trump was seriously considering the move, even discussing the possibility of getting him a security clearance, The New York Times reported at the time. Powell returned to the White House in the days after the meeting, but never got the role he had been seeking.

Just before Biden took office, Dominion filed a sprawling defamation lawsuit against her, saying she oversaw “a viral disinformation campaign” that fed lies about the election to millions of people. Eight months later, a federal judge in Michigan imposed sanctions on her for “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” in filing her lawsuits against Dominion.

In an interview for a book about his history and his presidency in April 2021, Trump denounced Powell for having said shortly before, in relation to the Dominion case, that no “reasonable” person would have believed what she was. saying.

“I was very disappointed by his statement,” Trump said in the interview, adding: “Why did anyone take it seriously? “It’s very degrading for her to say that about herself.” She described it as “shocking.”

“She was bold and strong,” Trump said. “And then she made a statement and I said, ‘Maybe she’s not that bold or maybe she’s not that strong.’”

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