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Back-to-back plea deals from Powell and Chesebro pose grave legal threat to Donald Trump

2023-10-21 17:20:14: Back-to-back plea deals from Powell and Chesebro pose grave legal threat to Donald Trump



CNN

Two loyal allies of former President Donald Trump turned on him this week, a stunning turn of events that could now pose a serious threat to his ability to fend off criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn the presidential election. 2020.

These rapid developments are a huge boost for prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., and for the separate but overlapping federal case against Trump that was filed by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith.

These pleas are a stark demonstration of the reality that the case for Georgia against Trump and his co-defendants is growing stronger. While Trump has vowed to fight to the end, these new plea deals force his co-defendants to face the same difficult choice: cut a deal or roll the dice at trial.

For two prominent Trump co-defendants — Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro — the looming five-month trial, which could result in a year in prison, appears to have prompted them to turn around.

Their decisions to move from Trump diehards to key witnesses against him likely shattered any sense of invincibility the former president or other defendants might feel — perhaps for the first time.

Chesebro pleaded guilty Friday to a criminal conspiracy charge, admitting that he worked with Trump and other members of the former president’s inner circle to overturn the 2020 election by offering fake Republican electors in several states that Trump had lost.

Chesebro directly implicated Trump in a criminal conspiracy, and his plea established for the first time that the fake voter conspiracy was illegal. Chesebro notably admitted that “the purpose” of the fake voter plot was to “disrupt and delay the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” which is a key part of the federal charges Trump faces.

As part of his plea, Chesebro established that the fake elector plot was part of an “attempt…to violate” the U.S. Constitution and federal law, by subverting Electoral College procedures. This is consistent with the allegations against Trump in Smith’s federal indictment.

On Thursday, former Trump campaign attorney Powell pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a separate, but complementary, effort to interfere with the 2020 election by violating Georgia’s election systems.

While Powell’s guilty plea only covers charges related to election equipment violations in Coffee County, Georgia, his deal with prosecutors opens the door to testimony about direct interactions with Trump and others key co-defendants.

For example, if she is called to the stand in a future trial, Powell could face questions about the White House meetings she attended, in which Trump considered taking extreme measures to overturn the results of 2020, like ordering the Pentagon to seize voting machines.

Chesebro also agreed to fully cooperate with Fulton County investigators as part of his deal — which includes testifying against Trump and other defendants if he is called as a witness.

Trump is the only person charged so far in the federal case, but Chesebro and Powell are unindicted co-conspirators. Chesebro has now admitted to conspiring with Trump in the same bogus election conspiracy that figures prominently in the federal lawsuit against Trump – scheduled for trial in March.

Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead lawyer in the Georgia election subversion case, responded to Chesebro’s guilty plea Friday by suggesting he was likely motivated by the “imminent threat of prison time.”

He speculated in a statement that Chesebro’s guilty plea “was the result of pressure from Fani Willis and his team, and the prosecution’s looming threat of prison time.”

Trump’s lawyer also pointed out that prosecutors rejected Chesebro’s separate racketeering charge that underlies the indictment against the 19 co-defendants, including the former president. Prosecutors have now dropped that RICO charge against the three defendants who have already reached plea deals.

But just because a former Trump loyalist decided to help prosecutors pursue him doesn’t mean the former president is convicted.

In 2018, Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors and implicated Trump in an illegal campaign finance conspiracy — but the Justice Department never charged Trump with this alleged crime. But Cohen has cooperated with New York state investigators and is expected to testify against Trump next week in Trump’s business fraud civil trial.

Sadow dismissed the threat of possible testimony from Chesebro and Powell at Trump’s possible trial on election subversion charges in Georgia.

“Once again, I expect truthful testimony to be favorable to my defense strategy,” Sadow said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Back-to-back plea deals from Powell and Chesebro pose grave legal threat to Donald Trump

cnn

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