How Sidney Powell’s guilty plea may impact Donald Trump

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Former Donald Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell’s stunning plea deal in the Georgia election subversion case on the eve of her trial will significantly change the landscape of the ongoing state and federal prosecutions against the former president.

As recently as Tuesday, Powell was still posting false claims on social media that said the 2020 election was rigged against Trump. But on Thursday, she walked into an Atlanta courtroom and admitted that she was guilty of trying to interfere with the 2020 election.

Her plea deal with Fulton County prosecutors will require her to testify truthfully against her co-defendants at any upcoming trials, including against Trump himself.

“This is a really big breakthrough for prosecutors,” CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig said Thursday on “News Central.” “There’s no such thing as halfway cooperation.”

Here’s a breakdown of how this could impact the cases going forward.

There’s nothing like an impending trial to spur a defendant into cutting a deal. And it looks like this is exactly what happened, for Powell at least.

Instead of going to trial on seven felonies, Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors. As part of the deal, prosecutors recommended a probation-only sentence.

Only two defendants – Powell and pro-Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro – invoked their rights under Georgia law to a speedy trial. Chesebro has pleaded not guilty and jury selection is set to begin on Friday.

Most notably, Powell attended a White House meeting on December 18, 2020, where some of Trump’s most extreme supporters encouraged him to name her as a special counsel to investigate supposed voter fraud, to consider declaring martial law and to sign executive orders that would direct the military to seize voting machines.

Also in attendance were former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former CEO Patrick Byrne, who were big-time peddlers of debunked election conspiracy theories. (Giuliani was also indicted in the Georgia case and has pleaded not guilty.)

The plea documents make clear that she’s expected to testify about her direct involvement in the breach of election systems in Coffee County, Georgia, where a motley group of Trump supporters collaborated with a local election official to access sensitive government data as part of their quixotic search for massive voter fraud.

Powell was also in touch with the Trump White House and other figures in Trump’s orbit during the frenzied post-election period where she publicly threatened to “release the kraken” by filing lawsuits across the country that she dubiously claimed could keep Trump in power. Her cases were deemed frivolous and dismissed.

Cooperators like Powell “can provide firsthand testimony about things they saw, things they overheard,” CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams said Thursday on “News Central.” “And if prosecutors aren’t satisfied with the evidence that’s provided, they can just yank this plea deal, and put these folks to trial.”

The most obvious consequence of Powell’s plea is that this could hurt Trump’s defense.

“She’s going to have to admit that, ‘yes, we were trying to steal the election, yes, I knew it was illegal, and yes, it was in fact a crime,’” Honig said. “All of that is in play for her testimony against all of the 17 other co-defendants, including Donald Trump.”

But zooming out, it puts in danger anyone who worked with Powell to overturn the election, including the attendees of the White House meeting and the Coffee County breachers. It doesn’t help them that a key player is now working for the prosecutors.

Powell had numerous contacts with other people in Trump’s orbit and could now be required to turn over evidence against them. Her guilty plea also implicates the group of Republicans who breached Coffee County’s voting systems in early 2021. Another member of that alleged scheme, bail bondsman Scott Hall, has already pleaded guilty.

She was also in touch with prominent right-wing media figures, including former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and current Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. All three of them are facing defamation lawsuits from voting technology companies, and Powell’s admissions in the criminal cases could strengthen the defamation allegations.

Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, who filed federal election subversion charges against Trump, might now get a bunch of new evidence, thanks to Powell.

Whatever statements or testimony she provides to Georgia state prosecutors, federal investigators could try to obtain to use against Trump in his federal trial scheduled to begin in March, in Washington, DC.)

Furthermore, Powell was an unindicted co-conspirator in Trump’s federal indictment, suggesting that the special counsel believes she broke the law. This puts in her danger of potential federal charges, so she may seek to cooperate with Smith as well.

The federal indictment describes Powell as “an attorney whose unfounded claims of election fraud (Trump) privately acknowledged to others sounded ‘crazy.’”


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