The Virgin Birth of Sidney Powell’s Fraud Fund

On the list of things those whinging about Merrick Garland seem to have missed is this Daily Beast story reporting that a grand jury is investigating Sidney Powell’s grift.

For months, a federal investigation running out of Washington, D.C., has been demanding documents and asking potential witnesses questions about Powell, according to three people familiar with the matter. Similarly, a separate investigation into Powell’s anti-democratic activities took place in the Sunshine State earlier this year—and has already produced results, and punished Powell and her far-right group.

The federal probe, which has not been previously reported, is examining the finances of Defending the Republic, an organization founded by Powell to fund her “Kraken” lawsuits to overturn the 2020 election, the sources said. According to two of the people familiar with the matter, a grand jury was empaneled, and subpoenas and documents requests have gone out to multiple individuals as recently as September.

The story is most amusing because it airs the entertaining feud between Powell, Lin Wood, Patrick Byrne, and the Flynns. The story airs the claims of those feuding with Powell who say, at a time this is under criminal investigation, that they were uninvolved with the grift.

Powell created Defending the Republic with great fanfare in December 2020 and listed a who’s who of pro-Trump election conspiracy world on its incorporation paperwork. The group’s board originally included former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn, his brother Joe, and QAnon enthusiast Lin Wooda fellow Trump-connected lawyer who recently started feuding with Powell.Attorneys for Defending the Republic claim that Wood was mistakenly listedas a board member and subsequently removed from registration filings. founder Patrick Byrne, who briefly served as Defending the Republic’s CEO, says he had his own concerns about the group’s finances.

In a phone call with Wood that Wood surreptitiously recorded, Byrne claimed that Byrne, Michael Flynn, and Flynn’s brother Joseph Flynn quit the group in April after Powell refused to allow an audit of Defending the Republic’s accounts.

“I gave her a laundry list of things she had to clean up and told her she had to get an auditor,” Byrne told Wood on the call.


While working as Defending the Republic’s CEO, Byrne said he became concerned that Powell was using the money for herself and may have potentially violated the law in the process. Byrne said he had determined that he faced no legal liability himself, but had been tempted to “drop a dime on” Powell and alert law enforcement.

“Sidney’s just running this as a scam,” Byrne told Wood.

The Daily Beast story on the criminal investigation into Powell then turns to some details laid out in the Dominion lawsuit against the Kraken lawyer. Powell had her Defending the Republic site up and running on November 23, before she incorporated it on December 1, 2020; and she advertised it falsely as a 501(c)(3), donations to which are tax deductible, rather than a 501(c)(4), which are not.

Defendant Defending the Republic, Inc. (“Powell’s fundraising website”) is the corporate form that was belatedly incorporated to solicit “millions of dollars” online at, a website created shortly after the 2020 election. The separate corporate entity for Powell’s fundraising website was not created until December 1, 2020, after Powell had appeared on television to solicit donations to the website and after the website began representing to potential donors that it was a 501(c)(4) organization.8

18. On or before January 7, 2021, began representing to potential donors that it is a “501c3 (Status Pending) Non-Profit.”9

19. Unlike contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations, contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations are not tax deductible.

20. As of January 7, 2021, Defending the Republic, Inc. did not appear in a search of 501(c)(3) organizations or 501(c)(4) organizations on the IRS website.10

8 Sidney Powell talks about her allegations regarding the computerized voting systems on election night, Washington Examiner (Nov. 20, 2020), available at, (last visited Jan. 4, 2021) (Ex. 5); Sidney Powell on Lou Dobbs Tonight on 11/30/20, YouTube (Nov. 30, 2020), available at, (last visited Jan. 4, 2021) (Ex. 6); Defending the Republic (Nov. 23, 2020), available at, (Ex. 7).

9 Defending the Republic Contact Page, available at, (last visited Jan. 7, 2021).

10 Compare November 23, 2020 capture of (Ex. 7) with IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search, available at, (Ex. 8).

Daily Beast presents this as further evidence supporting claims from Byrne (who should not be trusted either) that this money was going to support Powell, not sowing conspiracy theories.

But I’m interested in it for a different reason: the way in which Trump named Powell as part of his team, then cut her off, and then pardoned her client and co-grifter, Mike Flynn. Only after that did she formally register the grift.

I wonder whether some smart lawyer grew concerned that Sidney Powell was claiming to represent the President even while she was representing someone asking for a pardon.

On November 15, Trump explicitly named Powell as part of his team. On November 20, Powell appeared at Rudy the Dripper’s press conference. On November 22, Rudy and Jenna Ellis made a show of cutting ties with her.

Sidney Powell is practice law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.

According to Maggie Haberman, either he didn’t like her appearance and/or advisors convinced Trump to separate himself from her nutjobbery. Three days later, November 25, Trump pardoned Powell’s client. The next day, after days of promising to Bring the Kraken, Powell finally started releasing her epically batshit suits. Trump has promoted them.


Indeed, it even appears some Administration lawyers are still associated with Powell’s efforts.

I’m not sure I understand whether there would be a conflict between Powell representing Trump (for free, inevitably, as all lawyers do), making desperate efforts to overturn the election at the same time she was trying to ensure her client did no prison time. If that’s a conflict, it may still exist anyway given Powell’s admission to Judge Sullivan that she had repeatedly discussed Flynn with Trump’s campaign lawyer, Jenna Ellis. The fact that DOJ packaged up altered documents to support a Trump attack on Biden may make those ties more important anyway (or lead to more details about them becoming public).

But if Powell’s involvement made Pat Cipollone and/or Bill Barr — who presumably share the challenging task of helping Trump write pardons that don’t backfire — squeamish, it might explain the timing.

In other words, one of the things that may be of interest to this grand jury is why Sidney Powell started raising money before she had the legal vehicle to do so.

But that would also focus some attention on the fact that Sidney Powell started raising money to help sowing Trump’s conspiracy theories before Trump had pardoned her client (after she told Trump, in the summer, not to do so, yet, something she made clear in a hearing on September 29).

Sidney Powell started raising funds to support her efforts to undermine the election by November 23. On November 25, Trump gave her a thing of value — a pardon for her client. Only 5 days later did Powell make such fundraising legal.

It was always the case that Flynn’s pardon was wrapped up in propaganda to get elected. As I’ve noted, Trump used the alteration Bill Barr’s DOJ made to Peter Strzok’s notes, along with Powell’s false claims about it, to launch a prepared debate attack on Joe Biden.

But now the details of how Powell took overt steps to help Trump try to overthrow the election before Trump gave her something in value are before a grand jury.

18 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    I hope the Dominion lawyers did more than go to the IRS 501(c)3 search page to check on the status of Powell’s organization, because that search page currently carries this notice:

    Data Updates Delayed

    Expect delays in data updates for the Tax-Exempt Organization Search tool. We are still processing 990 series received April 2020 and later.

    If Powell is legit here, all she has to do is produce her copy of the 990. I do not, however, expect her to have one to produce.

  2. BobCon says:

    Reading that NY Times article about Trump’s team suposedly cutting off Powell, it’s striking how badly Haberman missed what was going on, despite (or maybe because of) all of her years on the beat.

    It’s true she documented how slipshod the legal effort was, but she and Jeremy Peters, the contributing reporter who is supposed to be one of the top “pulse of the nation” reporters for the Times, completely whiffed on what the legal challenges were really about and why they were so crazy.

    Part of it was she just wasn’t good enough at getting her sources to tell her what was going on despite years of cultivation. Part was complete failure to accept that Trump was terrible enough to launch an attack on the Capitol to try to stop the democratic results. She and Peters still thought, deep down, he and his supporters weren’t that bad, very possibly due to far too much openness to the pleading of GOP operatives.

    And part was a continued failure to understand the Kayfabe nature of Trump — how a prominent “firing” like this might be just for misdirection and drama. After so many years, she still couldn’t see the angles in ways that wrestling fans could easily deconstruct in their own arena.

    What’s worth noting is that much of her article was based on reporting from other outlets — it cites CBS and ABC, not her own reporting, and a public statement by Ellis. The usual Times instinct is to ignore or downplay these things, but here she cited it. And it may well have been the case that her coziness with White House sources stopped her from doing any real reporting — she needed her own minor spin, and took what was supplied to her.

    It’s not just her, to be fair — she’s reflecting a larger failure at the editorial level to do any heavy lifting and stop acting like reporting models from 30 years ago are still working.

    • gmoke says:

      Just searched NYTimes for mentions of kayfabe. There’s at least one that relates, among the very few mentions the Times has deigned to make of that word: How Wrestling Explains Alex Jones and Donald Trump

      My guess is that Ms Haberman and her fellow politics reporters didn’t read that “OpEd”. Incidentally, according to my search, the Times has used the word in a story only about 4 times in all and the URL above is the only one related to Trmp and politics.

      The Times should never have fired Ms Molly Ivins for writing about a chicken-plucking contest as a “gang-pluck.” They desperately need someone who is in touch with messy humanity beyond the manicured townhouses of Manhattan and the perfect lawns of suburbia.

      • Leoghann says:

        They might need someone like that, but they still think they’re far too cultured and “serious.” And I don’t really know of anyone who can do what she did. St. Molly was irreplaceable.

        It’s a complicated issue, but I believe Haberman was too afraid of losing all those leaky sources she had cultivated, and had gotten too lazy and gullible to really believe just how sorry some of those people are. Far too many in the mainstream news media apparently hadn’t ever before encountered a narcissistic sociopath, and no matter how wild it got, they continued to react with “oh, surely not.”

        • BobCon says:

          The fear of losing sources may have been real on her part, but it points to the broader editorial failure at the Times management level.

          One job of an editor over time is to evaluate the quality of the output — not just whether a story has a source, but what is the reliability of the source, and whether they deserve to be cut off.

          The poor reliability of Times sources became clear by mid 2017, and it was affecting the quality of the stories they were printing. At that point editors should have stepped in and pushed for new approaches to White House reporting.

          But the problem is Times political editors immerse themselves in the same loops as reporters, constantly fielding pitches and feedback from the same people their reporters are covering.

          Because the right’s talking class has infiltrated the Times feedback loops so extensively, management can’t run their own ship effectively.

          Which explains how they missed what was obvious at the time in late 2020 — Trump’s kooky Powell and Rudy show wasn’t a intended to be a serious legal effort, it was designed to enrage his violent supporters.

          The Times missed that because everyone up to the editorial level saw only what the right’s talking class wanted them to see.

        • BroD says:

          “Trump’s kooky Powell and Rudy show wasn’t a intended to be a serious legal effort, it was designed to enrage his violent supporters.”
          Exactly right.

  3. Sean says:

    It was the leopard print sweater that got her fired. Trump has a dress code. Remember how he lambasted Spicer for wearing a grey suit to his first presser.

  4. obsessed says:

    For years, whenever I read some news or analysis that started to give me hope that there might be some justice for all the right wing crooks, I gathered up my high hopes and came here to have them dashed, and almost invariably, you guys turned out to be right. Whatever I was so optimistic about never came through. But this year has been the opposite. I read the news, then come here mad, depressed and cynical as hell, only to hear “stop whinging and look at the sunny side of life”. I hope you’re as accurate in your optimism and you’ve always been on your pessimism. I mean … I get that you’re trying to be cold and objective and not be influenced by emotion, but there seems to be a sea change. I guess we’ll know in the next few years.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Daily Beast presents this as further evidence supporting claims from Byrne (who should not be trusted either) that this money was going to support Powell, not sowing conspiracy theories.

    Shirley, those two things are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are entirely consistent.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    But that would also focus some attention on the fact that Sidney Powell started raising money to help sowing Trump’s conspiracy theories before Trump had pardoned her client….Sidney Powell started raising funds to support her efforts to undermine the election by November 23. On November 25, Trump gave her a thing of value — a pardon for her client. Only 5 days later did Powell make such fundraising legal.

    Not legalizing her fundraising effort until after she received what she wanted from Trump seems lazy, miserly and incompetent, and makes this look like a quid pro quo rather than an independent effort. Question is whether a grand jury and jury would agree.

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