Georgia’s recognition poses a grave danger to Trump, the co-defendants

Former President Trump’s co-defendants in Georgia have begun to part ways, with two lawyers key to Trump’s effort to overturn the election agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.

Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis (D) late this week secured plea deals from Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, the highest-profile defendants to fail so far in the burgeoning racketeering case. Both agreed to testify truthfully against their co-defendants, including Trump.

Legal experts said they were not surprised by the deals, arguing they would increase legal jeopardy for the other defendants and increase pressure on them to also consider taking plea deals.

“The real importance of this plea is the signal it sends to the other defendants,” said Chris Mattei, a former federal prosecutor.

“First, you’re running out of time to cooperate because when accomplices come forward and plead guilty, the prosecution continues to build its case and may not need to cooperate with other individuals,” he continued.

The duo’s plea deals were reached ahead of their trial, which was set to begin next week. Powell accepted a plea deal Thursday, and Chesebro followed suit a day later. The first group of jurors had already been called into the courthouse.

The pleas followed another a week earlier by Scott Hall, a former bail bondsman.

Hall and Powell were charged with election violations in County County, Georgia. But Powell in particular has played a broader role in Trump’s orbit, serving as a key member of his legal team after the 2020 election.

Powell frequently promotes conspiracy theories about voting machines and foreign interference in court filings and media appearances. Trump’s campaign eventually distanced itself from Powell, who continued to file election cases independently.

“There are a whole number of people that she deals with that you would expect she would be able to testify against, including Rudy Giuliani and others,” Mattei said.

The indictment notes Powell’s participation in a press conference on November 19, 2020, along with Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, both of Trump’s former lawyers who are also indicted in Georgia. Ellis described the group as an “elite strike team” to reporters that day.

Ellis reacted to Powell’s deal on X, formerly known as Twitter, retweeting a conservative attorney who wrote that prosecutors “raised the charges and knew it.”

Prosecutors’ indictment also notes Powell’s attendance at a December 18, 2020, White House meeting with Trump, Giuliani and others, during which plans to seize voting equipment and appoint Powell as special counsel were discussed.

Testimony from several participants suggested the meeting lasted for hours, including profanity and shouting at times, as White House officials countered the baseless allegations of fraud made by Powell and several others. Axios called it the “craziest meeting” ever to take place in the Trump White House.

“I think any time a co-defendant pleads and makes a deal with a prosecutor to testify against the co-defendants, there’s potential danger for all of them,” said Gwen Keyes Fleming, who was the district attorney in DeKalb County, Georgia.

Fleming added: “We’ll have to see what type of witness she is on the stand.”

Like Powell, Chesebro also played a key role after the 2020 election, writing a series of memos outlining the Trump campaign’s alternative voter strategy.

The indictment lays out various alleged emails between Chesebro and other indicted attorneys, such as Giuliani and John Eastman. Three people who signed the Georgia Electoral College documents also face charges.

“It doesn’t bode well for those at the top of the chain, like Trump and Giuliani, given that these are two individuals who, based on what we know, were kind of part of that inner circle,” said Anna Kominski, director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at New York Law School.

Both originally faced seven felonies, but Powell instead pleaded guilty to six felonies and Chesebro pleaded guilty to one of his original felonies.

By doing so, they would avoid a conviction under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which charges all defendants with participating in an illegal conspiracy to keep Trump in power and forms the basis of the indictment.

Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in the case, denied Chesebro’s request.

“It appears to me that the guilty plea to count 15 of the Fulton County indictment was the result of pressure from Fannie Willis and her team and the looming threat of prison time by the prosecution,” Sadow said in a statement.

“However, it is very important for everyone to note that the RICO charge and all other charges were dismissed. Once again, I fully expect that truthful testimony will be favorable to my defense strategy.

Although they do not currently face other criminal charges, Chesebro and Powell appear to be named in charging documents in Trump’s D.C. federal election case as uncharged co-conspirators.

Powell still faces legal jeopardy from two defamation lawsuits from voting equipment companies Smartmatic and Dominion. Citing his criminal prosecution, Powell sought to have both civil cases dismissed.

In Georgia, a trial date for Trump and the other 15 has not yet been set, but is not expected until at least next year — while Trump continues his bid for the White House as the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary.

Kominski said the plea deals leave Trump’s lawyers without the benefit of seeing the duo’s trial, which would have allowed his legal team to see prosecutors’ theory of the case and gather impeachment material before they themselves face trial. assessors.

“I don’t think anyone should expect Trump or Giuliani to plead guilty anytime soon,” Kominski said. “I think you have to expect them to take these cases to court and that all these pleas are not going to change the fact that, in my estimation, they are definitely going to go full steam ahead.”

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