Sidney Powell was the wildest of MAGA diehards — someone who swore long past the bitter end that Donald Trump won by a landslide in 2020, and insinuated that a long-dead Venezuelan dictator helped hatch a plot that flipped votes away from her guy. That’s why the former president and much of his inner circle didn’t think the conspiracy-addled lawyer would ever cooperate with prosecutors seeking to convict the ex-president. “Crazy as she was, she really believed what she was pushing,” a lawyer close to the former president says.
Her extreme convictions apparently weren’t enough to stop her from working with prosecutors seeking to imprison the former president. Powell pleaded guilty in Fulton County on Thursday and agreed to cooperate in the case against Trump.
“[Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis and her team] managed to break the woman who was never supposed to be breakable,” says one of the sources with knowledge of the matter, who has known both Trump and Powell for years.
For months, Trump and his advisers have discussed which co-defendants in the Fulton County case and alleged co-conspirators in the Washington, DC special counsel investigation were most likely to cooperate with prosecutors and turn against him.
Trump, according to two sources familiar with the matter, has been intensely curious about which of his former allies might turn on him as the cases progress.
Trump’s attorneys have also tried to game out which of those potential cooperators may pose the greatest risk to his defense. So far, the Trump legal team has been keeping a close eye on the case of Kenneth Chesebro, an architect of Trump’s fake-electors plot, who was due to stand trial alongside Powell in Fulton County.
Before her plea agreement, some of Trump’s legal and political counselors had been working to cast Powell as a “fall guy” in the election-related cases against him and hoped to shovel the criminal exposure and blame for the failed attempt to overturn the election on to her and others, in the hopes of shielding former President Trump. After all, this was the woman who pushed the idea that George Soros — or was it the CIA? or perhaps Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez? — was somehow involved in the rigging of the election against Trump. And she was one of the trio of advisers who pushed the then-president to consider imposing martial law rather than quit the White House.
“Assuming truthful testimony in the Fulton County case, it will be favorable to my overall defense strategy,” Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in Georgia, told The Messenger on Thursday, attempting to cast Powell’s plea deal in a positive light for the ex-president.
But few, if any, of Trump’s aides and lawyers had predicted that Powell would cut any deal this soon.
The news of Powell’s plea agreement Thursday morning stunned a number of Trump’s top advisers and attorneys, all of whom thought Powell — the truest of all Trump-backing, election-denying true believers — was among the least likely to take a plea deal ahead of trial, the people familiar with the situation tell Rolling Stone. Some had even told Trump in recent months that they thought Powell would be (foolishly, in their opinion) fighting the so-called “deep state” in court ‘til the bitter end. She even pushed the idea that Trump could “simply be reinstated” in the middle of President Joe Biden’s term.
In the sprawling RICO prosecution of Trump and others, Powell was charged with, among other counts, conspiracy to commit election fraud, conspiracy to defraud the state, and conspiracy to commit computer theft. (Powell was implicated in a bizarre plot to access Coffee County voting data, according to prosecutors, to aid their crusade to keep Trump in power after his 2020 election loss.)
Powell has now agreed to plead guilty to six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties. As part of her agreement with Fulton County prosecutors, Powell agreed to serve six years on probation, pay a $6,000 fine, and write a letter of apology to Georgia residents.
Powell’s plea agreement raises the possibility that she could testify against the former president although the scope of her cooperation in the case remains unclear. Two other sources with knowledge of Powell’s recent moves say that one of the biggest factors in Powell’s decision was simple. The attorney hasn’t lost faith in her conspiracy theories or the anti-democratic lies about the 2020 election being “stolen” from Trump, the sources say. Rather, the sources say, she has privately conveyed that she’s merely beaten down and tired from the legal odyssey her efforts to overturn the election has wrought.
After nearly three years of being at the center of lawsuits and various investigations stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to those with knowledge of her situation, Powell is looking to end her various legal fights. The fact that Trump and most of the Republican elite have essentially abandoned her has also likely sapped Powell’s resolve.
“One thing to note is just how favorable this plea deal is for her. She’s been permitted to plead guilty to misdemeanors… to get this good of a deal, she really has to know something,” said Amy Lee Copeland, a former federal prosecutor in Savannah, Georgia, told The Daily Beast.
While the deal Fulton County offers Powell relief from prosecutors in Georgia, the MAGA attorney still faces a number of legal headaches.
Attorneys for Dominion Voting Systems sued Powell for a billion dollars shortly after the election. The suit, which alleges she defamed the company and with bizarre and bogus accusations that its products stole the election from Trump, remains ongoing.
Special Counsel Jack Smith also referred to Powell as one of half a dozen “co-conspirators” who helped Trump “in his criminal efforts to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election,” fueling speculation that she could face continued scrutiny in the ongoing Washington, DC federal investigation.