Donald Trump’s legal prospects took a turn for the worse on Thursday morning when Sidney Powell agreed to a plea deal in Fulton County. Powell, along with Kenneth Chesebro, had petitioned for a speedy trial and jury selection was scheduled to start tomorrow.
Per the Associated Press, Powell agreed to six years of probation and a $6,000 fine. Powell will also write an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia and testify against other defendants in the case.
Powell’s co-defendant, Kenneth Chesebro, reportedly rejected a similar plea deal, but Powell is not the first of the Georgia defendants to plead guilty. Back in September, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman and Republican activist, entered a guilty plea for racketeering charges in connection with the illegal breach of voting machines in Coffee County, Georgia.
The incident in Coffee County also directly involved Powell and several others. Lawfare explains this aspect of the alleged conspiracy in detail, but essentially the Trump lawyers acted on claims by Misty Hampton, an elections supervisor in the heavily red, south Georgia county that alleged that votes could be changed on the Dominion voting machines. Powell’s team was looking for a reason to implement an Executive Order seizing voting machines and made contact with the Coffee County officials. Scott Hall organized a trip to south Georgia and Powell engaged forensic computer analysts to examine the voting machines (in violation of the law) and the team ultimately made forensic copies of “virtually every piece of Coffee County’s elections equipment.”
While the conspiracy indictment encompasses much more than the Coffee County shenanigans, the incident is a good example of how the Trump team’s efforts to overturn the election went far beyond espousing crackpot theories. In this case, it crossed the line into blatantly criminal activity.
There are a couple of things to note about the case against Powell. First, she was directly implicated in the Coffee County breach, a factor that is not true of Donald Trump. This probably plays directly into the second consideration, which is that, as a lawyer, Powell realized that she was in deep enough kimchi that she didn’t want to go to trial.
When it comes to Donald Trump’s legal cases, Powell’s guilty plea opens up a new avenue of evidence against The Former Guy. As with prosecutions of mob bosses, the state started with enough evidence for a broad indictment. As low-ranking members of the plot agree to plea deals and become state’s evidence, the evidence against the bigger fish grows. Trump should be very concerned about Powell’s session of show-and-tell not only with Fani Willis but with Jack Smith, the special counsel prosecuting Trump’s federal cases.
It will also be interesting to watch Chesebro go to trial. Chesebro, also an attorney, will be the first of the election conspiracy defendants to stand trial, and his experience will show a lot (but probably not everything) about how Willis will try to prosecute Trump.
Sidney Powell deserves much more justice than she got today, but it’s encouraging that she is being punished for what amounts to an attack on American democracy itself. I have to wonder what possessed her to do what she did, knowing that her claims about election fraud were pure bunk. The only answer that I can find is that she thought she would get away with it.
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HAMAS GENERAL HOSPITAL: I know y’all love it when Steve and I argue so I’m going to quibble a bit with his take on the Hamas hospital strike. I agree with Steve that Hamas is not beyond blowing up their own hospital, but I do think this was unintended by whoever hit it.
I think the media was reasonable to run with the story as it appeared initially. It was plausible that an Israeli bomb could have blown up the hospital, even unintentionally. There is lots of ordnance flying around Gaza right now and accidents can and do happen.
I also don’t take offense at the nuance of the corrected reporting in terms of “US officials say,” etc. The original report was called into question and the media reported the new information. In essence, it became a matter of he said/she said, at least until the evidence can be examined.
In my view, the story is an example of the fog of war at a time in which breaking news can be and is transmitted immediately around the world without being vetted for accuracy. It’s similar to the breaking raw information that is broadcast in the aftermath of mass shootings, much of which is wrong and has to be corrected later. These corrections often feed into conspiracy theories (i.e. “The media said there was an assault rifle and two shooters when it was one shooter with a shotgun and a pistol. Why are they lying to us?”)
At times like these, I tend to follow Hanlon’s Razor, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
As a corollary, I assume that the further the members of the media get into specialized areas of knowledge, the less accurate their reporting is likely to be. That’s especially true in the early hours of breaking stories. As a pilot, it’s pretty evident that people who write a lot of aviation stories in mainstream media outlets have only the vaguest idea of what they are talking about.
And in this case, it’s highly likely that Hamas deliberately tried to confuse the issue for propaganda reasons. It would be embarrassing for Hamas to admit that they accidentally bombed their own hospital (parking lot, to be exact), but blaming Israel could help to deflect criticism from Hamas’s own barbarity. For the record, even if it was an Israeli bomb, Hamas is still at fault since they started this whole, unnecessary war.
I’ll also note that, even though I accept the US and Israeli claims that the hospital parking lot explosion was an errant missile, there still seems to be some doubt. As I was writing this, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he was not ready to accept the revised story.
"We saw some preliminary evidence but we'll keep working with our allies as quickly as possible before reaching any firm and final conclusion,” Trudeau said, adding that Canada is "taking the necessary time to look carefully at everything.”
That seems like good advice.
GENERALISSIMO FRANCISCO FRANCO IS STILL DEAD AND JIM JORDAN IS STILL NOT SPEAKER: Jordan lost ground in Wednesday’s Speaker vote with 22 Republicans voting against him. There was brief hope that the party would unite behind a plan to keep interim Spreak Patrick McHenry on a semi-permanent basis, but Jordan seems determined to keep beating a dead horse.
Several of the Republican holdouts, including my congressman, Drew Ferguson, have reported that Jordan supporters have threatened them and their families over their no votes. That seems like as good a reason as any to remain #NeverJordan.