One day before her criminal trial was to begin, a key member of former President Donald Trump’s legal team, Sidney Powell, pleaded guilty to illegally conspiring to overturn the Republican’s 2020 election loss in Georgia.
Trump and 18 of his close allies and supporters were indicted in a sprawling anti-racketeering case.
Powell, a Dallas-based lawyer who espoused baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 vote and filed a litany of failed lawsuits challenging the results, admitted guilt to six misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties.
She was sentenced to six years’ probation and agreed to pay a $6,000 fine and $2,700 in restitution to the state of Georgia, turn over documents and testify truthfully in her co-defendants’ trials.
She is the second of Trump’s 18 co-defendants in the sprawling racketeering case to accept a plea deal and agree to testify against co-defendants. The other is bail bondsman Scott Hall.
Both faced charges related to their involvement in a secretive effort to access and copy election software in rural Coffee County, Ga., about two hours south of Atlanta.
Powell is the first person with direct ties to Trump and his inner circle to plead guilty in the Georgia case. That development could have far-reaching implications for the former president, who is facing state and federal charges tied to his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss. Powell is an unnamed co-conspirator in the federal case against Trump.
Powell pleaded guilty to several charges related to the alleged Coffee County scheme, including counts tied to her contract with the forensics firm SullivanStrickler. The plea marked a sharp contrast with her posture in the case in recent weeks.
Powell attorney Brian Rafferty had claimed that his client had “nothing to do” with the breach in Coffee County, although he also has argued that what happened there was “authorized” by election officials there and not illegal.
Powell agreed to plead guilty to all aspects of the conspiracy that prosecutors have alleged, including that she paid employees of SullivanStrickler to travel to Coffee County and copy voter data “without authority” and to “interfere with, hinder and delay” the duties of Misty Hampton, the Coffee County elections director who also has been charged in the Georgia case.
Asked by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee whether she understood the charges to which she was pleading guilty, Powell replied, “I do.”
Powell was a key Trump adviser who was briefly in his inner circle of confidants in the chaotic weeks after Election Day 2020 as the then-president sought to remain in office.
She was present at an infamous Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18, 2020, that featured a shouting match — and nearly blows — between then-White House lawyer Eric Herschmann and Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser who was urging Trump to try to overturn his defeat.
A motley crew of unofficial Trump advisers had talked their way into the Oval Office and an audience with the president of the United States to argue the election had been stolen by shadowy foreign powers — perhaps remotely via Nest thermostats.
For hours, the group tried to persuade Trump to take extraordinary, potentially illegal action to ignore the election results and try to stay in power, while some actual White House advisers tried to persuade him that those ideas were, in the words of one lawyer who participated, “nuts.”
Powell’s guilty plea means that she will provide testimony for the prosecution about her front row witness view of the treasonous crimes of which Trump and the others are accused.