MAGA attorney Sidney Powell’s guilty plea blindsided TrumpWorld on Thursday, raising concerns that she will testify against former President Donald Trump.
Powell, who played a key role in Trump’s post-2020 election legal battles and pushed a bizarre conspiracy theory alleging voting machines flipped votes from Trump to President Joe Biden in a plot involving deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and the Chinese government, pleaded guilty in Fulton County to six misdemeanors accusing her of conspiring to intentionally interfere with the performance of election duties. Powell agreed to serve six years of probation, pay a $6,000 fine, write a letter of apology to Georgia residents and testify truthfully against her co-defendants at future trials.
"This caught TrumpWorld by surprise, as it did all of us,” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman told CNN on Thursday.
"This was one of the best-kept secrets out of that DA's office in some time," she said. "They are trying to figure out what it means.”
Some TrumpWorld insiders have sought to downplay the threat posed by Powell, Haberman said, but there is “concern about the degree to which Powell could offer information, not just about former President Trump, but about Rudy Giuliani.”
“There's nobody in TrumpWorld who is pretending this is a good development,” she added. “They are split on what exactly it means."
Trump and much of his inner circle never thought Powell would ever cooperate with prosecutors, Rolling Stone reported on Thursday.
“Crazy as she was, she really believed what she was pushing,” a lawyer close to Trump told the outlet.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ team “managed to break the woman who was never supposed to be breakable,” added another source, who has known Trump and Powell for years.
Some Trump legal and political advisers were looking to cast Powell as a “fall guy” in the election-related cases against him and hoped to shield the former president by pointing to the efforts of others, the outlet reported.
Instead, Thursday’s guilty plea “stunned a number of Trump’s top advisers and attorneys,” who believed Powell was among the least likely to accept a plea deal, according to Rolling Stone.
Experts told The Daily Beast there was a good reason prosecutors were willing to offer Powell a “sweetheart deal.”
“One thing to note is just how favorable this plea deal is for her. She’s been permitted to plead guilty to misdemeanors… to get this good of a deal, she really has to know something,” former Georgia federal prosecutor Amy Lee Copeland told the outlet.
“The fact that she was in a meeting at the White House, she can testify to what Trump said at that meeting. And we don’t have a whole lot of people who’ve been willing to do that. That’s going to be pretty powerful for the DA,” Copeland added.
“She’s someone who would bring out the absolute wildest in Trump. The things he probably said to her would be jaw dropping. To that extent, it’s red meat for the criminal trial,” agreed former federal prosecutor Kevin J. O’Brien.
Trump’s lead attorney in the case, meanwhile, sought to frame the guilty plea as beneficial for his client.
“Assuming truthful testimony in the Fulton County case, it will be favorable to my overall defense strategy,” attorney Steve Sadow told the outlet without elaborating further.
The guilty plea doesn’t just spell trouble for Trump.
Former Trump lawyer “Giuliani is absolutely dead,” O’Brien told the Daily Beast.
“Not that he doesn’t have enough troubles already, but this is the worst blow yet to him… she’s got to be trouble for Trump and double trouble for Giuliani,” he said. “The floodgates are going to start opening in the Georgia case and it really vindicates Willis’ approach to the case. Even if it’s a headache administratively, they’re going to have plenty of cooperating witnesses against the people left standing.”