October 23, 2023

Guilty Pleas in Georgia

Lawyer Sidney Powell pleaded guilty to reduced charges Thursday over efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election in Georgia… Powell, who was charged alongside Trump and 17 others with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law, entered the plea just a day before jury selection was set to start in her trial. She pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors accusing her of conspiring to intentionally interfere with the performance of election duties…

“As part of the deal, she will serve six years of probation, will be fined $6,000 and will have to write an apology letter to Georgia and its residents. She also recorded a statement for prosecutors and agreed to testify truthfully against her co-defendants at future trials.” AP News

“A second lawyer who represented Donald Trump's 2020 presidential campaign, Kenneth Chesebro, pleaded guilty on Friday… Chesebro pleaded guilty in a Fulton County court to conspiracy to commit filing of false documents… The plea agreement calls for Chesebro to be sentenced to five years of probation and pay $5,000 in restitution.” Reuters

Here’s our coverage of the indictments. The Flip Side

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From the Left

The left argues that the plea deals bolster the case against Trump.

“Powell’s testimony is hugely important and her plea is a big breakthrough for prosecutors. She is the first cooperating witness who was part of the limited group that met with Trump to craft the plans to overthrow the election… The most important names at the top of the indictment — particularly Trump, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — could be directly implicated by her potential testimony

“Powell’s legal troubles are not over. She still faces potential jeopardy in the federal election interference case, as well as major lawsuits by two voting machine companies… But she has limited the damage to herself in Georgia, while at the same time providing prosecutors with a major weapon in their efforts to hold the rest of the defendants, including former President Trump, accountable for their conduct.”

Jennifer Rodgers, CNN

“District Attorney Fani Willis’ seeming generosity is a sign of shrewd judgment, not weakness. Prosecutors have both the carrot and the stick to get what they want, and the two deals Willis just made were large carrots, signaling to the other defendants that she is someone they can deal with, and that there are potentially acceptable pathways out of the mess they are in…

“At the same time, she has just made her case against other, more significant defendants meaningfully stronger and her stick that much larger. Of course, Willis is a long way from where she needs to be, but those who had originally feared she had overindicted the 19-defendant RICO case might now be a little less concerned.”

Robert Katzberg, Slate

Regarding Chesebro, “While another of Trump’s outside lawyers, John Eastman, has become the face of the ‘alternate electors’ dimension of the overarching scheme, Eastman’s ideas were in fact originally developed by Chesebro…

In recently published emails, Chesebro in December 2020 admitted that his gambit had less than a ‘1 percent’ chance of success but that his machinations could offer a ‘political payoff’ that would push the American people to ‘come away from this believing that the election in Wisconsin was likely rigged, and stolen by Biden and [Kamala] Harris, who were not legitimately elected.’ Earlier in the post-election period, he called his strategy ‘dicey,’ conceded that ‘we will probably lose,’ and cast other aspersions on his own theories.”

Norman Eisen and Joshua Kolb, Salon

From the Right

The right argues that the plea deals were lenient because Willis lacks evidence to support the more serious charges.

The right argues that the plea deals were lenient because Willis lacks evidence to support the more serious charges.

“With a jury culled from deep-blue Fulton County, the risk of a conviction on even one of the felony counts, and the consequential loss of her law license, would be just too great of a chance for any defendant to take — especially when the plea only involved misdemeanors that would be discharged from Powell’s record following probation. Under these circumstances, it would have been lunacy for Powell to have rejected the plea offer

“But what reason would Willis have to offer such a favorable deal? None, if Willis truly believed Powell committed the felonies for which she was charged and Willis had the evidence to prove them. After all, it is not as if Powell’s testimony is needed to establish the other crimes charged against the other defendants.”

Margot Cleveland, The Federalist

“When prosecutors cut plea deals with cooperators early in the proceedings, they generally want the pleading defendants to admit guilt to the major charges in the indictment. That indicates to the public that the major conspiracy charged is real. It puts pressure on other defendants to plead guilty to serious charges and cooperate. And it shores up the case against the major culprits…

Willis is not doing that… [Powell] pleaded guilty to intentional interference with the performance of election duties, as well as five other misdemeanors, without being required to plead guilty to the RICO charge — or even admit that she was guilty of it…

“[Willis] filed the grandiose allegations in an indictment that depicts Trump as if he were the boss of a Mafia family — with Powell as one of his lieutenants. Now she’s pleading people out to minor infractions. There’s good reason to believe that’s because minor infractions are all she’s got.”

Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

Some argue, “Powell’s potential reach in this case is so deep that it might start a cascade of flips… If either Meadows or Giuliani decide to cut bait and plea out, their only value to Willis will be in fingering Trump for fraud and interference — and their testimony could prove devastating to Trump not just legally but politically as well. If Powell and others testify that Trump knew he’d lost and attempted to obstruct the election results anyway — which we don’t know Powell will do yet — that would be a bombshell in the 2024 nomination process.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

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