Fani Willis Serves Up Cheese and Kraken

Update: As Harpie and others noted in comments, in the hour since I’ve been taping with Nicole Sandler, Kenneth Chesebro pled guilty to a felony in GA.

Hours after the first 450 jurors appeared at the Fulton County Courthouse to fill out a questionnaire ahead of an expected monthslong trial where he faced seven felony counts, Chesebro and his attorneys pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of conspiracy to commit filing false documents.

Chesebro’s deal includes five years of probation, $5,000 in restitution to the secretary of state’s office, 100 hours of community service, a letter of apology, an agreement to testify in future trials and to hand over remaining documents and text messages to the district attorney’s office.

Here’s the colloquy.

As the news of Sidney Powell’s cooperation plea broke yesterday, there were people asking who could have predicted that Powell — the Kraken! — had turned state’s witness.

I laid out why she might flip back when the Georgia indictment came out.

One way the Georgia and federal indictments will interact is in the relative pressure between already being charged, in a state with strict pardon rules, and being not-yet charged, in a venue where Trump has pardoned his way out of criminal trouble in the past.

Five people are named as co-conspirators in both: Rudy (CC1 in the federal indictment), John Eastman (CC2), Powell (CC3), Jeffrey Clark (CC4) and Ken Chesebro (CC5).

Some of these people, like Sidney Powell, Trump might not consider pardoning in any case. Plus, Trump’s closest associates have spent the last week or so throwing her under the bus. But thus far at least, Powell’s personal legal risk is far greater in Georgia than federally.

Others, though, may think seriously about how much harder it would be to get a pardon for Georgia than a Federal indictment, where the next Republican President, possibly including Donald Trump, would be able to pardon them.

For Powell, more than anyone else, flipping was a wise option. She’s one of the five people charged in Georgia also described as co-conspirators in Jack Smith’s indictment (Boris Epshteyn is believed to be co-conspirator#6 in DC, but is being subpoenaed as a witness in Georgia).

All five are likely aware that loyalty in DC, which might win them a pardon if Trump wins in 2024, won’t save them in Georgia, where pardons are much harder to come by.

After Judge Scott McAfee rejected a Powell bid to dismiss the non-RICO charges against her, the decision to flip likely became a lot easier. The hacking charges with which she was charged were the most serious free-standing charges in the Georgia indictment.

Irrespective of what happens in DC, Powell traded cooperation and six years of probation — with the possibility of having the charges expunged — to avoid the possibility of serious state prison time that Trump couldn’t pardon away.

In any case, Powell is not among the insiders Trump would be quickest to pardon.

One thing about the decision: in spite of all the TV lawyers claiming she’ll make a terrible witness because she’s so batshit, this was an eminently rational decision. She sounded absolutely sane in yesterday’s plea hearing, as I imagine she did when he provided her videotaped testimony before pleading.

As to the question of whether that means Powell would cooperate in DC, it’s worth noting that we can’t even be sure we would know if she were cooperating. After all, few people covering the case account for the part of the investigation into Sidney Powell — for fundraising only tangentially related to any conspiracy with Trump — that was overt over two years ago, or the fact that Michael Flynn and Patrick Byrne had already underbussed her at that point. No one knows the full details about why she spent money raised in that fundraiser to fund the defense of people on the Oath Keepers (and probably others).

More importantly, those trying to imagine how her cooperation would impact Trump seem to imagine that we  understand the entire nature of any such cooperation. As I noted in August, the indictment actually includes Powell for just one purpose: to prove that Trump took advice from someone he was publicly identifying as crazy.

[H]er role — as described — is actually very limited. Just one paragraph describes her actions:

20. On November 16, 2020, on the Defendant’s behalf, his executive assistant sent Co-Conspirator 3 and others a document containing bullet points critical of a certain voting machine company, writing, “See attached – Please include as is, or almost as is, in lawsuit.” Co-Conspirator 3 responded nine minutes later, writing, “IT MUST GO IN ALL SUITS IN GA AND PA IMMEDIATELY WITH A FRAUD CLAIM THAT REQUIRES THE ENTIRE ELECTION TO BE SET ASIDE in those states and machines impounded for non-partisan professional inspection.” On November 25, Co-Conspirator 3 filed a lawsuit against the Governor of Georgia falsely alleging “massive election fraud” accomplished through the voting machine company’s election software and hardware. Before the lawsuit was even filed, the Defendant retweeted a post promoting it. The Defendant did this despite the fact that when he had discussed Co-Conspirator 3’s far-fetched public claims regarding the voting machine company in private with advisors, the Defendant had conceded that they were unsupported and that Co-Conspirator 3 sounded “crazy.” Co-Conspirator 3’s Georgia lawsuit was dismissed on December 7.

Go back and look! Her most famous role — when she got cleared into the White House and told Trump he should make her Special Counsel and seize the voting machines — doesn’t appear at all. Indeed, my greatest disappointment with the indictment is that it doesn’t explain one of the enduring mysteries of January 6: what led Trump to adopt January 6 as his plan shortly after that meeting.

It describes Trump’s December 19 tweet — the tweet that triggered thousands of MAGAts to start planning a trip to DC — but not what led up to it.

Curse you, Jack Smith!!!

Aside from proving he knowingly lied, the indictment doesn’t really tell us why Powell plays such a central part of the case against Trump.

There are, however, two details that I think are being missed: First, Powell played a key role in Fox’s platforming of propaganda, as laid out in the Dominion lawsuit (after the Fox settlement, Dominion’s lawsuit against Powell moved into a more active phase).

Fox brought her on and off the campaign, and had a role in her conspiracy theories.

And while Powell appeared on Fox only four times when she was even arguably part of the President’s team, and six times when Fox was clearly aware that she was not. As important, Fox was instrumental in maneuvering Powell both into the Trump campaign and then out of it.

Third, Fox ignores its own role in developing the conspiracy theories it then aired See Dom. MSJ pp.39-44

These two claims — that Fox “maneuvered Powell … out of” the Trump campaign and that they played a role in developing these conspiracy theories, are discussed in heavily redacted passages of the earlier filing (probably redacted because Fox has claimed it pertains to internal business deliberations).

The first — describing how Fox “maneuvered Powell … out of” the Trump campaign after Tucker came under fire for questioning Powell — consists of almost four full paragraphs introduced with a description that Fox, including Tucker and Raj Shah, “mobilized.”

“We won the battle with Powell. Thank god,” the passage quotes a Tucker text later. Dominion is now explaining that that “battle” pertained to getting Powell ousted from Trump’s orbit.

The second claim — that Fox was the source of some of these conspiracy theories — incorporates the description of how Fox got Powell ousted from the campaign, but also includes redacted passages describing Lou Dobbs’ role in “promoting the narrative,” another making a redacted reference to Hannity, as well as the unredacted reference to Bartiromo chasing an email from Sidney Powell that Powell herself said relied on a “wackadoodle” source. The later filing suggests the earlier filing goes as far as saying that Fox played part in developing the conspiracy theories.

That includes a December 10 Lou Dobbs appearance in which Powell claimed there had been a cyber Pearl Harbor that undermined the vote.

Nonetheless, on the next day, December 10, Dobbs had Powell on again, where she repeated the false (and repeatedly debunked) story about the Smartmatic and Dominion machines being designed to flip votes to rig elections for Hugo Chavez,and allowing people to login and manipulate votes . See ¶179(q );Appendix D. But rather than questioning Powell’s claims, Dobbs attacked Attorney General Barr for saying he’d seen no sign of any significant fraud that would overturn the election and told Powell “We will gladly put forward your evidence that supports your claim that this was a Cyber Pearl Harbor,” noting “we have tremendous evidence already,” id. which he now admits was not true. See Ex.111,Dobbs 46:25-47:10,86:20-24 . Dobbs had seen no evidence from Powell, nor has he since. Id.

Powell had sent her claims about a “Cyber Pearl Harbor” to Dobbs (who forwarded to his team) in advance of the show. Ex.450;Ex.451. Prior to the show, Dobbs published a tweet to the @loudobbs Twitter account with the claim that “The 2020 Election is a cyber Pearl Harbor,” and embedding the very document Powell had sent to him just hours before which stated that Dominion was one off our entities that had “executed an electoral 9-11 against the United States” and “a cyber Pearl Harbor,” that “there is an embedded controller in every Dominion machine,” and that they had “contracts ,program details, incriminating information ,and history” proving these claims.¶179(p); Appendix D.

Later the same day, after Powell appeared on the 5pm broadcast and before the 7pm unedited rebroadcast of the show, Dobbs again tweeted “Cyber Pearl Harbor @SidneyPowell reveals groundbreaking new evidence indicating our Presidential election came under massive cyber-attack orchestrated with the help of Dominion, Smartmatic, and foreign adversaries.” ¶179(r); Appendix D. Dobbs conceded at his deposition that this tweet was false Powell had not presented any such evidence on his program that day. Ex.111,Dobbs 269 :2-271:5.

Claims like that were the basis not just of Powell’s lawsuits that provided Trump cover that the election remained undecided, but also of Powell’s sustained effort to obtain Dominion data from swing states, the crime to which she just pled guilty. It was tied to a bid for Trump to use Commander-in-Chief authorities to steal the election.

The Georgia indictment claims that crime started on December 1, 2020 and lasted at least through April 2021.

Indeed, the way in which this pursuit of data was a continuation of and continued after January 6 is one of the most chilling parts of Anna Bower’s account of it. Bower first lays out good reason to suspect that Cathy Latham — another of the charged co-conspirators in the Georgia indictment — was in the Willard Hotel consulting with people like Bernie Kerik.

On Dec. 17, Marilyn Marks, the executive director of Coalition for Good Governance—the election security organization that initiated the Curling suit—texted Latham. Through the election activism grapevine, Marks had heard about the supposed problems with Dominion machines in Coffee, she said in an interview with Lawfare. Something sounded “suspicious” about it all, she said, but she wanted to learn more. She spoke with elections board member Chaney, who suggested that she get in touch with Latham.

Marks texted the GOP chairwoman, explaining that her organization was involved in litigation to move away from the use of Dominion systems in Georgia. Marks asked when Latham might be available to chat. Latham replied: “I am in D.C. right now and am about to meet with IT guys.”

Latham would later admit under oath that she visited D.C. for an unspecified period sometime in December. But she did not confirm the reason she gave at the time. In her deposition, rather, she claimed that she traveled to the capital city because she had been invited to go on a “tour” by a woman named Juliana Thompson, because Latham hadn’t been able to go the previous year.

“We [got] to see the Christmas trees, and I got to go to the Bible Museum,” she explained.

When asked if she met with anyone who was not with the D.C. tour group, Latham replied, “I’m going to plead the Fifth on that.”

But if Latham was in D.C. only to tour the Museum of the Bible and see Christmas trees, why did she tell Marks that she was “about to meet with IT guys”?

And Latham did admit in her deposition that she stayed at the Willard Hotel during her trip.

“That’s where I slept,” she said.

If the Willard Hotel rings a Jan. 6 bell, that’s because it served as the “command center” for the legal arm of the Trump campaign led by Giuliani in this period of time. The rooms were organized and paid for by Bernie Kerik, the former police commissioner of New York City, who worked for the Giuliani legal team as an investigator. Kerik later sought reimbursement for the rooms from the Trump campaign.

According to his testimony before the select committee, Kerik paid for the room of an unnamed “whistleblower” from Georgia who traveled to the Willard to meet with Giuliani sometime during the post-election period. The “whistleblower,” he said, had been brought to the hotel by William Ligon, a Georgia state senator, and an Atlanta-area attorney named Preston Haliburton. He did not specifically identify the whistleblower by name.

That said, later that month, on Dec. 30, Latham appeared alongside Giuliani and other Trump surrogates at a legislative hearing chaired by Ligon. At that hearing, Latham claimed “whistleblower” status as she testified about the alleged “problems” with Dominion Voting Systems machines that led Coffee County to refuse to certify its machine recount results. Haliburton, who was listed as “counsel of record for the Giuliani legal team,” also represented Latham at the hearing.

Latham, in her Curling deposition, denied that she had ever visited the Willard with Haliburton.

As Bower lays out, minutes after Trump called off the riot on January 6, the Coffee County caper — the crime to which both Powell and bail bondsman and David Bossie brother-in-law Scott Hall have already pled guilty — went into motion.

At 4:17 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, the president of the United States belatedly tweeted out his video message to the mob that had forcibly disrupted the counting of electoral votes. “You have to go home now,” he finally said.

But even as Giuliani was keeping up pressure on senators to “slow it down,” Coffee County officials were undeterred.

Nine minutes after the president’s tweet, at 4:26 p.m. that afternoon, Hampton sent a text to Chaney: “Scott Hall is on the phone with Cathy about wanting to come scan our ballots from the general election like we talked about the other day,” she wrote.

The next morning, on Jan. 7, Latham texted Hampton to tell her that the SullivanStrickler forensics team had departed Atlanta and were on their way to Coffee County. Hall, she added, was flying in, too. “Yay!!!!” Hampton responded. These events are also mentioned in Acts 142-143 of Count 1 of the Fulton County indictment.

Several minutes later, Paul Maggio, the chief operations officer of SullivanStrickler, sent an email to Powell, Logan, Penrose, and others. “We are on our way to Coffee County Georgia to collect what we can from the Election / Voting machines and systems,” he wrote, attaching an invoice for SullivanStrickler’s $26,000 retainer fee. The invoice billed Powell’s PAC, Defending the Republic.

This may be what Rudy was pointing to when he was pleading with Members of Congress to just buy some days.

It may also be why people like Kerik have been underbussing Powell: because they want to blame her for the plans that continued even after the attack on the Capitol.

I don’t know whether Powell will or even if she already has flipped federally.

What I’m more confident about, though, is that if she did, she’d offer testimony about things that are not widely understood, if at all.

127 replies
  1. Ebenezer Scrooge says:

    Just wanna point out that Powell’s cooperation might be valuable even if she is not a very useful fact witness. She might have access to some evidence not yet flushed out, or useful impeachment material on others, or be able to corroborate and tie together a whole bunch of documentary evidence.

  2. Patrick Carty says:

    Did Ken Chesebro refuse his plea deal without knowing Powell would accept hers? Because his trial starts Monday and if I’m reading the news correctly (IANAL) she could testify against him. And are the Georgia proceedings going to be televised? That’s some Kraken right there.

    • Rwood0808 says:

      While Powel’s plea deal will certainly impact trump to some degree I’m more interested in how it will influence Cheseboro. This tweet from yesterday caught my eye:

      “I think if you’re Kenneth Chesebro, you take a handful of misdemeanor pleas under the First Offender Act, withhold adjudication, and hope for the best in the event the Special Counsel’s Office comes to you next,” Georgia State law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said, referring to a Georgia law that allows someone with no prior felony conviction to avoid normal prosecution and having a permanent criminal record.”

      As if Smith is not coming for him.

      So what does Powell know that can implicate Cheseboro, and what does Cheseboro know that can implicate Giuliani, and so on, and so on.

      • Rwood0808 says:

        ….and there it is. The fact that The Cheese is still accepting a felony charge tells me that Willis/Loyd had some pretty strong charges.

        Who’s next? I would imagine it’s the gang that took part in the Coffee County adventure, after that its a race to see who can get the best deal first.

        I imagine there are tanker trucks of ketchup are on their way to MAL…

  3. Zirczirc says:

    Willard Hotel: The Willard seems to be the center point between the White House and the Capitol grounds. Any info that sheds light on how the comms went between all three is good info.

  4. Orestes Secundus says:

    I’ve read this story before: the Kraken has stared into the eyes of Medusa’s severed head.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    To repeat what was discussed earlier this year, that Coffee County, GA, elections office breach was not some Keystone Cops affair. It was a significant data breach, and not just regarding the data on individual voters in one rural Georgia county.

    It was a coup for GOP oppo researchers and dirty tricksters. The operating s/w itself is widely used. It cost the state a lot of money to replace hard drives, replace or recertify machines and operating s/w, revise staffing and security protocols for elections offices, and so on. Republican dirty tricksters will be using its fruits for years, most especially in the 2024 election.

    • Nutmeg Paul says:

      Could you explain further or link to the prior discussion? Thx

      [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Your last comment was published under username “Nutmeg Dem.” Please pick a name and stick with it. Thanks. /~Rayne]

      • Unabogie says:

        They were able to create a bootable image of the machine, which presents two main problems, as I see it. First is reverse engineering or decompiling. This isn’t an exact science, but often a compile piece of software can be reverted to something that is very close to the original software. Keep in mind that vote tallying is a trivial thing to write. The vast majority of this kind of application would be dedicated to logging, data validation, and hacking prevention. So if you can get a look at how they are approaching their protection, you’re off to the races in finding an exploit. And keep in mind that exploits can exist due to “race conditions” or other flaws in the basic architecture of the application.

        • Codewalker says:

          No application is trivial.

          I’d like to see open source software deployed as a condition demanded by states. Let the giant army of nerds point out the vulnerabilities.

      • pH unbalanced says:

        If you want more details about the Coffee Country breakin, last night’s BradCast had an interview with Susan Greenhalgh of Free Speech for People who has been closely involved in this. (Free Speech for People is working together with the Coalition for Good Governance in their election security lawsuit.) He also interviewed Marilyn Marks about two weeks ago — she’s the one who recorded Scott Hall’s confession which is what got the whole investigation started.

  6. mickquinas says:

    The thing that stands out to me regarding Sydney Powell’s role/value/significance is that she, and people she’s connected to, represent the intersection of a) media amplification of accusations of (non-existent) election fraud, b) (sanctionable) courtroom/legal antics, c) criminal activity, and d) fundraising shenanigans.

    It doesn’t seem like she was valued by the primary agents of chaos, or viewed as a risk, given how quick they were to “underbus” (love that neologism) her. But it seems likely that she developed her plans and modeled her activities based on the work of, and in conversation with, others, like Rudy, who were higher up the ladder. As Dr. Wheeler points out though, she got into the Oval Office to pitch strategy, and even if her pitch didn’t win, it sure looks like she left that meeting with a set of several assignments. Even if she’s not the key that unlocks a lot of mysteries, she might be the link that describes the process that connects funding (for lawsuits and defense), the “Big Lie” as political strategy, and the willingness to use overtly criminal activity (Oath Keepers and Coffee County folks, etc.) to further the “cause”.

    Of course, we won’t know until we actually see her testimony deployed, and even then, may not get the full sense of its investigative value, if any.

  7. gertibird says:

    Documents baby documents….email’s, txt’s, notes, letter’s voice mail’s, contracts, dinner/hotel reservations, photos, gps coordinates, etc. Ms. Powell’s are worth lot’s.

  8. RitaRita says:

    This analysis highlights an important point. The attempted coup may have been doomed by the actions of Congress on January 6th but Trump remained in power until January 20th. One of the ideas floating around was using troops to seize election machines and then declaring martial law to quell anticipated riots. As long as Trump remained Commander-in-Chief, there remained a threat.

    Ms. Powell may have been crazy and a rogue actor. But it does seem more than coincidental that she participated in a scheme that seems a lot like schemes that had been discussed with Trump. As far as crazy, I’d put her in the same group of crazies as Peter Navarro, Lin Wood, and Mike Lindell: useful crazies.

  9. CaptainCondorcet says:

    GA RICO question. Does her guilty plea suffice to trigger RICO if anyone who worked alongside her on any Jan 6 stuff is convicted in court of their individual charges?

    • timbozone says:

      It’s more likely to trigger it under Georgia law than under Federal law is my understanding of the McAffee ruling—link is in OP above.

      Much thanks to Dr. Wheeler for putting that link in there btw: Page 7 onward fascinated as it covered some of the differences that McAffee reasoned through between Georgia RICO and Federal RICO, prior to denying Powell and Chesebro’s attempts to dismiss the Georgia RICO charge.

    • pasha says:

      Love neologisms! Is the verb “underbus” transitive or intransitive? Or does it start as one and end up as the other?

      [Welcome back to emptywheel. FOURTH AND FINAL REQUEST: Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  10. Alan_OrbitalMechanic says:

    Trump team will no doubt present the argument that since Powell’s theories were rejected by Trump himself as being too crazy, that means that Trump was only following facts when pursuing his election denial claims. In other words, Trump’s relationship to Powell was actually exculpatory. That won’t work but I bet they will try it.

    • P J Evans says:

      There seems to be a step missing in there. Or at least some reasoning that’s missing: Her theories being too batshit for the former guy doesn’t mean he was following facts.

  11. Spank Flaps says:

    Early in 2021 I heard reports that the FBI had informed Rudy, that he was being fed disinformation by the GRU.
    I think Rudy’s response to it was (paraphrasing) “we saw it on the internet” (meaning Dark Web).
    Makes me wonder if Powell was pulling all this crazy stuff out of her arse, or was she talking to GRU.
    Her “Hugo Chavez” error did smell a bit Russian, in that they recycle poor propaganda.

    • Rayne says:

      Powell was quite likely recycling Rudy’s warmed-up bullshit, though his bullshit had GRU taint.

      “You’re gonna be astonished when I tell you how [Smartmatic] was formed,” Rudy Giuliani told Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs on November 12, 2020, according to a transcript included in documents Smartmatic subsequently filed in court. “It was formed, really, by three Venezuelans, who were very close to . . . dictator, Chávez, of Venezuela. And it was formed in order to fix elections.”

      Then another conspiracy theorist explained to viewers that Smartmatic’s software could be loaded onto voting machines in order to effectuate the fraud. “They can do it from Germany or Venezuela, even,” Sidney Powell, then a lawyer for the Trump campaign, said during a Fox News appearance. “We’ve identified mathematically the exact algorithms they used and plan to use from the beginning to modify the votes, in this case, to make sure Biden won.”


      Do note the date emphasized above. The crime in Georgia didn’t let up from Election Day onward.

      • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

        It’s yet another example of Qons not thinking things through. The subsequent audits and hand recounts not only proved that Biden won, I’m fairly certain that Biden actually gained votes in each state that held audits and recounts.

    • pH unbalanced says:

      Apparently this is my day to post BradCast links.

      The original Hugo Chavez links were genuine, but they were to a completely different voting machine company, Sequoia, which was purchased by Dominion. This was all reported on in 2010, and had, literally nothing to do with Smartmatic or anything in the 2020 election.

      Brad Friedman had done the original reporting on the Sequoia deal, and here is a link to the show where he (very bemusedly) realizes his story was picked up by the MAGA conspiracists, and tries to go through the differences between what they were claiming, and what the actual facts were.

      • SophiaB123 says:

        I was about to cute Bradblog, then saw your post. I’ve been an election integrity activist since 2004. Brad’s work has been invaluable. It’s MINDBOGGLING to me that the MaQAts have taken the concept of election theft to their shriveled cold hearts. Too bad they are the spawn of the Original Grifters: Karl Rove and the slime monsters he ran with are RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF OUR DEMOCRACY… IF WE LET THEM WIN THIS INSANE ARGUMENT.

        [Thanks for updating your username to meet the 8 letter minimum. I assume that’s what you’ve done by adding numeric characters to “SophiaB.” /~Rayne]

      • harpie says:

        BREAKING NEWS: Kenneth Chesebro, alleged architect of the “fake electors” plot, has struck a plea deal with prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, per source familiar with the arrangement.

      • harpie says:

        [Bower, cont’d] Chesebro is set to plead guilty to at least one felony charge as a part of the deal, the source told @lawfare.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          GA apparently has a specific rule allowing criminal defendants with no prior felonies to plead to misdemeanor charges, in a process that avoids adjudication of facts and law. (Much of that seems common to any plea arrangement.) That Chesebro admits to a felony, if true, suggests that he concluded the evidence against him was overwhelming.

            • bmaz says:

              There was some concern about this in Chesebro’s allocution. The record was specific that it was “not a crime of moral turpitude” for exactly this reason. Still, a felony (even a felony DWI) will usually get you the boot. We shall see as to Chesebro I guess.

            • SteveBev says:

              Though the term of probation is 5 years, it seems ( by the application of the First Offenders Act ?) that in fact it will terminate after 3 years (if I followed the hearing correctly).

              There’s still some logistics to sort out regarding transfer of probation to Puerto Rico.

              Notwithstanding the effect on his law license, it still seems a pretty good deal.

              • SteveBev says:

                It seems from a quick perusal of sources, the the expungement of the conviction applicable to HALL and POWELL misdemeanour convictions upon successful completion of their probation under the First Offender Law , also applies to CHESEBRO for his felony conviction. That would explain why the “not a crime of moral turpitude” clause was part of the agreement – he obviously hopes to recover and/or resist losing his law license.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  As bmaz notes, for bar purposes, it’s a big leap from misdemeanor to felony crimes. If he keeps his license, he’ll still have a hard time getting malpractice insurance and clients, except for wingnut welfare gigs. If he cooperates and incriminates Trump, he can probably kiss wingnut welfare goodbye.

                  Scooter Libby, for example, eventually got his law license reinstated, thanks to a passel of recommendations from movers and shakers. But he famously refused to cooperate, and fell on his sword instead.

          • bmaz says:

            Or that he could not afford a prolonged fight. And I doubt he could. Extracting a felony out of this junk is something notable though.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Chesebro’s plea apparently involves probation with no prison time, so that’s something. The big question going forward is what credible evidence do he and Powell have that incriminates Trump and other senior members of his entourage.

      • timbozone says:

        Wow. A sobering moment for Mr. Chesebro…also for those who have not yet plead out amongst the remaining charged conspirators in the Georgia RICO case.

    • DrStuartC says:

      Ooo let’s go!
      Fani walks down the seats
      Of a Georgia courtroom slow
      Ain’t no sound but the sound of defeat
      With more cases ready to go
      Are you ready? Hey MAGA, ready for this?
      Hangin’ on the edge of red seats?
      Out of the courtroom, guilty pleas rip
      to the sound of defeat. Yeah!
      Another one bites the dust
      Another one gone
      With more to come
      Another one bites the dust
      Hey, Trump! She’s going to get you, too!
      Another one bites the dust…

  12. Cosmo Lecat says:

    Congratulations to Fani Willis and her prosecution team, getting guilty pleas from Chese and Krakens. Great job.

  13. ifthethunder says:

    As proceedings in the civil court began on Friday, the New York judge Arthur Engoron asked Trump’s lawyers why “this blatant violation of the gag order would not result in serious sanctions, including financial sanctions and/or possibly imprisoning him”.
    Shirley bmaz will put this judge in his place?

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        The potential for jail time for not fully divulging testimony hangs like a sword of Damocles over the heads of both Chese and Krakens though.

        • xyxyxyxy says:

          The y were in a conspiracy to bring down the US. As Trump said about Milley, execution is the remedy, maybe not for them, but loud and clear.

        • earthworm says:

          seems like the gold standard of divulging is when we learn more about the pipe bombs (that didnt go off) near DNC and RNC headquarters.

      • Deadhead says:

        Logically DA Willis will attempt to get testimony regarding the RICO conspiracy from these two. (or already has it) Those who disparaged her ability, discretion and judgment are looking pretty foolish now.

        • bmaz says:

          Naw, her prosecution is still complete bullshit in its ridiculous scope. If you are talking about me, and I am certain you are, you don’t know shit. Historically, denizens here objected to stringing out charges to leverage desperate pleas (See: Aaron Schwartz, among countless others). It was always canon. But not now that it involves Trump. What a bunch of abject hypocrites.

          • dar 5678 says:

            Aaron Swartz. Tough name. Good kid, I knew him well.

            FWIW bmaz, I appreciate your tireless defense of propriety toward defendants. We’re all a little prone to want to bully back the bullies when we have the opportunity, and it’s wrong.

  14. BobBobCon says:

    One of the things I find odd about the supposed Powell underbusing narrative is that it started even before Thanksgiving 2020, before events described in this post.

    This article co-reported by Maggie Haberman (of course) supposedly Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and much of the White House found her claims too wild.

    Awfully funny how she kept working for Trump. Has there been a time she wasn’t on her way out?

      • BobBobCon says:

        It’s funny to see Meadows cited in that article as someone finding her beyond the pale.

        Isaac Chotiner made it something of a running joke to point out all of the times Meadows showed up as a supposedly heroic figure in Philip Rucker’s account of Trump’s last days, rejecting the ideas of people like Powell.

        You have to wonder how much of Powell’s designated job duties from the very beginning was to be the patsy for people like Meadows.

  15. jdmckay8 says:

    she’d offer testimony about things that are not widely understood, if at all.

    Like connecting a lot of people who participated in the Big Lie, working in the shadows, to crimes.

    Also had a few moments being stunned, reading your saying Sydney was “sane”. That someone, with her backround, could conjure such deep/wide fairy tales on the US Public… to me, almost unfathomable. Reminds me of Orson Well’s The Martians Are Coming. I would not want to be living in her skin having to face up to all that.

  16. Disraeli56 says:

    So let’s summarize – 3 guilty pleas – The sweet 16’s trial is scheduled for March – let’s get those Elite Eight brackets in

  17. paulka123 says:

    It strikes me that plea deals for no prison time for the architects of the insurrection, well, that really isn’t an inhibitor for future insurrectionists.

    • Harry Eagar says:

      Maybe, maybe not. I surmise the rebels thought the courts were not a factor. Future would-be rebels might approach things differently.

      Especially since they now have to include state courts in their calculations. Presumably, they thought their plot would succeed, so that the federal courts would have been hamstrung.

      Federalism is showing a strength not usually ascribed to it — and one that really never kicked in during the Great Red Scare or the McCarthy years, when the state courts were even worse than the federal courts.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s still seriously early days yet. And the whole point is to use small fry to get at the big fish. Only if you do that is there real deterrence, no matter how many small fry you might put in the slammer.

      • paulka123 says:

        I certainly understand that there is a significant difference between what Powell was charged with and what the Proud Boys were charged with but, it seems to me, no jail time for Powell (an architect) and 18 years for what in effect were the foot soldiers (or perhaps corporals or sergeants) of the grand conspiracy to overthrow the government just doesn’t feel like justice to me.

        I suppose my great anger at the attempt to overthrow the government of the country I love has something to do with that.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Powell’s conduct in GA is what matters here. She’s a relatively ancillary figure, regardless of how public her persona. Chesebro, in contrast, was in more jeopardy – hence, his plea to a felony – but he worked behind the scenery.

          What’s relevant is how much credible evidence they have that implicates other defendants – in GA – and the quality of their cooperation.

        • timbozone says:

          Smacking a police officer over the head and rushing the Capitol to physically prevent Congress from functioning during the transfer of power isn’t serious enough for you?

    • dar 5678 says:

      I’m of the general opinion that Trump was sui generis and no other person would inspire such absurdist chicanery.

      If you can get the leader, there’s some room for lenience toward the followers.

      The courts will establish that this is not a viable path to insurrection, leaving only overt violence which is more difficult to muster, and ironically easier to quell.

      And, many of these folks have exposure in other cases.

      [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. I’m sorry you weren’t asked in your previous three comments, but the space in your username does not count as a letter. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • timbozone says:

      Who are the “architects of the insurrection”? Are you saying it was all Powell and Chesebro and no one else?

      As for future deterrence, not every would be insurrectionist wants their lives turned upside down by being convicted of a crime, jail time or no. Further, in Powell’s and Chesebro’s respective cases, they’re lucky to be able to take advantage of Georgia’s First Offender sentencing laws…this time. Next time those two will not be able to benefit again there. And some of the yet to be tried defendants in the Georgia case won’t be legally able to quality for First Offender status now. That’s a big, big deal, at least to people who actually care about being out of jail and not under court imposed supervision, etc.

  18. Savage Librarian says:


    You jerked too hard,
    You hate too much,
    The Chesebro made you greedy,
    Let your aching head and stomach
    hear this message from ol’ Speedy
    Alpha Shelter:
    Flip flop, fizz, fizz,
    Oh, what a relief it is,
    Flip flop, fizz, fizz,
    Oh, what a relief it is.

    “Speedy Alka Seltzer”

  19. Cosmo Lecat says:

    Some here are bemoaning that defendants got off without jail time. It’s a common theme of EmptyWheel commenters that both the J6 Committee and the Fulton Co prosecutors are inept and unworthy. For some, the only metric of success is time served in prison.

    My view is that widespread exposure of the crimes, the revealing of institutional flaws and the true telling of these sordid affairs in future history books is far more important than time served by underlings. I would also remind everyone that nobody avoided prison yet, as Chesebro and Powell are widely reported to be as-yet unindicted co-conspirators in the federal indictment of Trump.

    Today, let’s hail the success of the Fulton Co prosecutors and praise the strategy of Fani Willis.

    • bmaz says:

      “Some here are bemoaning that defendants got off without jail time. It’s a common theme of EmptyWheel commenters that both the J6 Committee and the Fulton Co prosecutors are inept and unworthy. For some, the only metric of success is time served in prison”

      What a complete load of shit. The J6 Committee has nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with confinements.

      “My view is that widespread exposure of the crimes, the revealing of institutional flaws and the true telling of these sordid affairs in future history books is far more important than time served by underlings. I would also remind everyone that nobody avoided prison yet, as Chesebro and Powell are widely reported to be as-yet unindicted co-conspirators in the federal indictment of Trump.”

      I’m sorry, can you point to any actual indictment? No? Then stop.

      Yes, yes, let’s all slather a dubious local prosecutor because Trump Derangement Syndrome. Things we all once hated are now marvelous because Trump. Lol.

      • paulka123 says:

        Donald Trump tried to overthrow the government of the United States. I have zero problem with dealing with him in a special and unique and especially harsh manner. Ironically, he is being treated special, just in the opposite way.

        Non-lawyer question, what is the statute of limitations on an insurrection conspiracy crime? Is it 5 years?

        • bmaz says:

          Yes yes, I know…It is special right now! That was the hue and cry during the drug wars as to the 4th and 5th Amendments. It was the hue and cry as to torture after 9/11. It is always “special”. And, ultimately gross.

          As to the last question, five years unless extended under some rolling conspiracy allegation.

          • harold hecuba says:

            I don’t know about it being “special”, but do think there’s a distinction to be made when the President of the United States refuses to do his duty in conceding an election, saying without evidence that the election was rigged, scheming to put in fake electors, and exhorting others to “take back” their country by storming the Capitol.

            I don’t know if Willis is going outside her lane or not, but it’s telling that two people have pled guilty already, and we haven’t even gotten to the meat of anything yet.

            • bmaz says:

              No, that is not “telling” , it just means Fulton County overcharged up the ying yang and forced two at risk defendants into pleas. Again, something usually detested here, but Trump derangement controls everything now.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Your argument would gut the argument that Trump is being treated like any other criminal defendant, and that he’s not being prosecuted for political reasons or because he’s a world-class asshole, which would let him escape accountability altogether.

          • timbozone says:

            Not necessarily. And that’s the problem. Trump should be convicted on the merits, not because some mob doesn’t like him. We all have a right to be presumed innocent in US courts prior to reasonable and fair judgement, etc. The problem, one to be avoided if possible, is when hot heads are the ones always making the decisions, not on the merits but because of a mob mentality that panders to expediency and emotion rather than reason and fairness.

      • Cosmo Lecat says:

        You proved my point that for some people the only metric for success is jail time served. I’m sorry that I expressed myself in a way that did not convey the validity of my viewpoint, even if you disagree with it. Preservation of democracy and informing the public are, in my opinion, higher ideals than vengeance as measured by days spent in prison.

        BTW, I never mentioned or alluded to Trump, so I can’t fathom why you are accusing me of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  20. says:

    Another stellar headline that makes my top 10 list. Soon I’ll need to make the list a top 20!

    You go, girl!

  21. Badger Robert says:

    Thanks to Ms. Wheeler and all of you for the excellent post and discussion. The trouble with involving attorneys in a conspiracy is that if the crime/fraud exception holds up, they usually don’t have priors and are not willing to do time for the family.
    And why should we feel sorry for the perpetrators who are getting tagged teamed by Smith the bad cop and the Georgia DA who gets to be the nice cop? These people tried to end democracy in the US,

  22. Dopey-o9 says:

    I have been following stories similar to the Dominion conspiracy theories since the days of Bev Harris’ Black Box Voting. Trying to develop open-source software with crowdsourced exploit detection.

    None of the geniuses on Trump’s team have shown a remotely plausible theory of compromising hundreds of unconnected computers in multiple states.

    I would pay $20 good american money to sit with Ms. Powell and discuss exactly how Dominion rigged it. Magical algorithms, ethernet protocols without Ethernet, strange entanglement at a distance between Germany and Georgia.

    Crap, I’ll pay $40 to have Chris Krebs of CISA fame write the questions!

    • Baltimark says:

      I haven’t stuck more than a couple fingers into the swamp murk of those Dominion and Smartmatic conspiracy theories. Their, uh, profound batshittedness is readily evident and yet it’s interesting to enumerate the _varities_ of batshittedness.

      The item that got me today is “ethernet protocols without Ethernet.” Credulous acceptance demands buying into the objective category error of seeing “Ethernet” as a product rather than a technical specification. Anybody anywhere anytime can engineer devices utilizing IEEE-itemized standards for this or that flavor of Ethernet. If they do so accurately, voila! Ethernet is there! Conversely, if they diverge from the standard, them thar protocols ain’t ethernet OR Ethernet, hoss.

      Beyond that, there is the superficially Zen koanesque question of whether or not “Ethernet” exists as a means of network communication amongst possibly non-networked devices, but naw, it’s simple: those devices have Ethernet capabilities which lie fully fallow without connecticity.

      TL/DR: purporting to use “ethernet protocols without Ethernet” is pretty darn analagous to “using morse code protocols without Morse Code.” If it walks like a duck…

      [comment concludes with that sloooow FM dejay fadeout on the eighth-eighth-eighth-quarter-quarter-quarter-eighth-eighth-eighth note synth line from Manfred Mann’s Stranded in Iowa; IYKYK]

  23. Unabogie says:

    Slightly off topic but related to the NY fraud case, Trump has been going around saying Mar a Lago is worth $1.5 billion dollars. Others have commented that this means he owes more in property tax so I wondered what we were talking about here.

    Running a tax calculator, it says that Palm Beach taxes property at 1.110%

    Let’s see, add two, carry the one…and…

    Trump owed $16.5 million per year.

    And assessed at only $20 million as he’s been claiming was…

    $220,000 per year. So Trump has been underpaying $16.3 million per year in property taxes for decades.

    So isn’t that illegal?

    • Ithaqua0 says:

      No, it’s not. The assessed value of a property, for property tax purposes, need not be approximately the same as the property’s market value (and often isn’t.) Note Prop. 13 in CA, for example, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. According to Zillow (and reasonably so), my house is currently worth over 2x what is assessed for property tax purposes.

  24. pankakarot says:

    if your client agrees to a plea deal, and the plea deal says no media contacts about the case. 5 minutes after your plea hearing the attorney goes and does media interview about the case… does that break the plea agreement?

    because kenneth chezbro’s attorney did this today.

Comments are closed.