Sidney Powellapalooza: Trump’s Kraken Cracks

Sidney Powell, the conspiracy-theory-spouting lawyer who tried to help former President Donald Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election, pleaded guilty Thursday to six misdemeanor charges in the case brought by Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fanni Willis against Trump and 18 others. It seems unlikely that this is what right-wing pastor Ken Christmas had in mind when he prayed over Powell a year ago asking God to “make her a bulldozer that will being to plow through the courts of the United States of America.”

“Significantly, Ms. Powell is the first of Mr. Trump’s close advisers from the post-election period to flip, which could also help the federal election interference case against him,” The New York Times observed Thursday, noting that the six years of probation she received “is a significantly less-severe outcome than she would have faced if found guilty of the seven felonies for which she was originally indicted, which included a violation of the state racketeering law.”

Powell has reportedly agreed to testify against other defendants. Given the wild and outlandish conspiracy theories Powell promoted about how the election was supposedly stolen from Trump—earning her a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems—it’s not clear how credible a witness Powell will be. As of Friday morning, the pinned Tweet in her X account still suggested that election fraud occurred in Fulton County in 2020.

Just days before the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, Powell told religious-right activists that Trump had “national emergency powers” that he could use to delay the inauguration.

More than five months after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Powell was still predicting that the courts would kick him out of the White House and Trump would be reinstated. Last year, Powell was honored by a group of religious-right activists at a Florida event at which she declared, “It’s not about me. It’s about God and the truth.”

When Powell was indicted in August, Right Wing Watch noted:

This isn’t Powell’s first brush with accountability for her work to overturn the 2020 election. She was sanctioned by a federal judge for making deceptive claims and undermining faith in democracy. (Just this month, the Sixth Circuit Court denied her request to reconsider an earlier decision upholding most of the sanctions imposed on Powell and fellow attorney Lin Wood.) Powell has also been sued by Dominion Voting Systems.

Powell, a lawyer with a serious demeanor, often showed supreme confidence in her unprovable claims. “President Trump won this election in a landslide,” Powell said during an interview with Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs on Nov. 13, 2020. “It’s going to be irrefutable.”

During one press conference she claimed that Dominion Voting Systems machines had been created in Venezuela to manipulate elections in favor of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In another press conference in Atlanta, she stood with Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander and Kyle Rittenhouse attorney Lin Wood and claimed, “We already traced a lot of the money that did this back to China. People in Iran, China, Hong Kong, and Serbia…having influence in our election system.” She filed an affidavit citing prominent QAnon figure Ron Watkins, who had no expertise with electronic voting systems.

Powell repeatedly vowed to “release the Kraken”—evidence that she claimed would lead to a “massive criminal investigation” that would overturn election results in several states. In reality, Powell’s assertions about international plots and rigged voting machines were probably the reason one White House insider dubbed a group of Trump’s most rabid advocates “Team Crazy.” Her court filings were riddled with blunders, including the inclusion of a plaintiff in Wisconsin who said he had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

Powell’s claims even became too much for the likes of Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Jenna Ellis, who distanced themselves from her before the end of November. But with Trump facing shrinking options and a diminishing number of people who would tell him what he wanted to hear, Powell was back in the White House the following month, urging Trump to make her a special counsel to investigate election fraud. One revelation from the Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings was that Trump may have informally given her that title, but never followed through with steps to make it official. It was after that meeting that Trump tweeted a call to his supporters to show up at a rally on Jan. 6, promising that it would “be wild!”

Powell had previously represented National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, before Trump pardoned him, when he was trying to withdraw his guilty plea to charges of lying to the FBI. The association with Flynn gave Powell credibility within the MAGA movement, as did her track record going back to 2019 of using QAnon slogans and hashtags in social media.

Like Ellis, Powell was admired by Trump’s religious-right supporters. In a Dec. 2020 prayer call with religious-right dominionists hoping to keep Trump in power, Flynn called Powell a “spiritual warrior” and his and America’s “guardian angel of justice.” Religious-right author and broadcaster Eric Metaxas assured prayer call participants that the Stop the Steal movement was in the hands of “serious Christians” like Powell, Ellis, and Wood.

Powell heads an advocacy nonprofit called Defending the Republic, which reportedly helped fund the legal defense for some Oath Keepers charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The group distributes a newsletter by the same name, which among other things, has helped promote the 1776 PAC’s support for right-wing school board takeovers. …

Powell may have inadvertently contributed to the health of our democracy by telling Georgia Republicans during a Stop the Steal rally that they should threaten to boycott the upcoming Senate runoff campaigns unless officials acted to ensure that their votes would be secure. The dual victories of Democratic Sens. Raphael Warner and Jon Ossoff in those runoff elections took control of the U.S. Senate out of the hands of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, making it possible for President Biden and Senate Democrats to confirm the most diverse group of highly qualified federal judges ever named to the bench.

Every day, Right Wing Watch exposes extremism to help the public, activists, and journalists understand the strategies and tactics of anti-democratic forces—and respond to an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian far-right movement. The threat is growing, but our resources are not. Any size contribution will help us continue our work and become more effective at disrupting the ideologies, people, and organizations that threaten our freedom and democracy. Please make an investment in Right Wing Watch’s defense of the values we share.