Sidney Powell has a history of extreme claims and her current conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 election have been called dangerous by some.
The Trump campaign has recently gotten rid of another one of its own, Sidney Powell, a lawyer who was working with his team attempting to overturn the results of the election. She appears to have been fired for making extreme statements, accusations, and threats related to what she sees as conspiracies across the country intended to rig the election for Biden.
Who is Sidney Powell?
Originally from North Carolina, Powell worked on appeals cases in Texas and Virginia in her role as a federal prosecutor in the 1970’s and 1980’s then founded her own law firm in Texas. In 2014 she wrote a book about what she saw to be fanatical Justice Department prosecutors who engaged in misconduct and ethical lapses feeling they were justified in doing so to win cases.
Powell caught the attention of the Trump campaign by portraying herself as a “chronicler of corruption” at the Justice Department and writing articles and blog posts saying that Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump’s connection to Russia was really a secret attempt to undermine the president
Powell was hired by Trump’s ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in 2019, to represent him in a case involving his admitted lies to the FBI regarding the Russia probe. Flynn’s legal strategy immediately did a 180 and he went from cooperating with prosecutors to blaming them.
Powell claimed that the intelligence community had “deliberately targeted [Flynn] for destruction.” Powell’s aggressive approach supposedly impressed Trump himself.
Powell joined Rudy Giuliani’s post-Election Day legal team to help overturn Trump’s losses, openly asserting that voting machine manufacturers and software companies rigged the election for Biden, something that gained her Trump’s approval.
Although Giuliani is now suggesting that Powell was never a member of the administration's legal team, a variety of senior Republicans referred to her that way many times, as did the President in this Tweet from November 14th:
Statements, Accusations, and Threats Made by Powell
The conspiracy theory that Powell came up with as a defense for Michael Flynn was not her last. Initially, Rudy Giuliani and the President have enthusiastically supported Powell's tale of switched votes and fabricated ballots. In fact, it’s unclear whether she adopted the Trump campaign’s conspiracies or if some of them may have begun with her. But either way, at first, it seemed the members of the legal team were all on the same page regarding the kinds of claims they were making.
At a news conference, on Nov. 19th Guiliani introduced her as well as the conspiracy she was about to describe, making it clear that the legal team all agreed about the story. Powell went on to tell a story so convoluted as to be hard to follow. It involved the Clinton Foundation, communist money from Venezuela, Cuba, and China used to change our election, software specifically designed to allow cheating through an algorithm which flipped a certain percentage of Trump votes turning them into votes for Biden combined with Guiliani’s added claims that American votes are counted outside the country where they are open to hacking.
Powell asserted that the only reason this fraud was caught was that there should have been a landslide for Trump but there wasn’t. She went on to say that the Democrats anticipated this and had prepared fraudulent mail-in ballots to make sure they could successfully steal the election. There was also an accusation that thousands of Biden ballots showed up in Detroit in the middle of the night, which were to ensure that Biden was able to win Michigan.
During an interview with Rush Limbaugh, Powell claimed the machines that were designed specifically to rig the election were made in Venezuela at the order of Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013. On Fox News, she claimed that the voter fraud included huge numbers of dead people who had voted. Before she was done, her conspiracy theory included the Clintons, George Soros, one of the world's most important philanthropists, and the Antifa.
Powell went on to accuse government officials across the country of election fraud without any facts to back up her allegations. Her most recent attack was centered on Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia who certified election results for the state in favor of Joe Biden.
When the certification was announced, Powell stated she would “Release the Kraken,” (referring to an enormous mythological Scandinavian sea monster that rises up from the ocean floor to devour its enemies) to take on Biden's alleged false claim to the Presidency. Powell used the saying to indicate that the case she was bringing had enough evidence behind it to destroy Biden’s “claim” of having won the election.
The pro-Trump lawyer filed lawsuits in Georgia and in Michigan, alleging a massive voter fraud scheme that “rigged” the presidential election in favor of Biden. In Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffesperger both Republicans and strong Trump allies, were named in Powell’s suit. She accused the Governor of taking a bribe from an election systems company to alter the outcome of the votes in Georgia. There was also an accusation in Georgia of ballot stuffing. In Michigan, “massive election fraud” was alleged that was said to violate the U.S. Constitution. In both states, the complaints included accusations about Dominion Voting Systems voting machines flipping a certain percentage of votes.
Along with accusing Georgia's Governor and Secretary of State of taking bribes and fixing the election, Powell said that there were likely thousands of election officials across the country who intentionally helped to conduct this master conspiracy to put Biden in the White House. She even claimed that if a full investigation was ever undertaken, they would probably find evidence showing that U.S. elections had been falsified for decades.
As lawsuits alleging election fraud in Georgia were dismissed, in an interview with Newsmax, Powell made numerous accusations and threats. She said she was going to file a lawsuit that would be “biblical,” then went on to say, "Georgia's probably going to be the first state I'm gonna blow up and Mr. Kemp and the Secretary of State need to go with it.”
The Trump Administration Distances Itself From Powell
Following these interviews and statements, the Trump campaign began to distance itself from Powell, with a statement made on Nov. 22nd which said that she wasn't a member of the Trump legal team, despite the president just announcing that she was the previous week. The statement made by lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis simply read:
“Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”
Just like others fired by Trump, Powell stayed loyal to the President, saying that she agreed with the statement made by Rudi Giuliani. Instead of disputing the remarks which made it sound like she had never officially worked for Trump’s campaign, she simply said she would still be investigating claims of election fraud but as a private citizen, representing #WeThePeople and seek the Truth."
What Could Cause Even Trump to Want to be Rid of Powell?
Publicly, former governor of New Jersey Chris Christie and Fox New's Tucker Carlson attacked Powell for making such outlandish claims and while repeatedly stating she hade a mountain of evidence, refusing to provide any of it so that it could be confirmed. Christie stated that Powell had turned the President into a national embarrassment.
There are other reports of calls being made to the White House, by several GOP senators who asked to remain anonymous, concerned that Powell seemed unhinged. Some reports say lawyers for the campaign refused to attend any meetings if Powell was there.
Yet since being fired, Powell has continued to be a leading source of absurd conspiracy stories and fraud allegations about the election which involve multiple government officials and institutions both in the U.S. and other countries, which mirror the President's own claims of election fraud as he still refuses to concede.
While her claims have been extreme, and she has accused numerous officials of criminal activity without presenting proof of any kind, this is nothing new to her methods. This is exactly what she has done in the past. So, Trump and his legal team know exactly who they were getting when they hired her. She has also been allowed to remain in the public eye while fighting for Trump by trying to reverse the election results, which suggests that the Trump team can't find her antics too egregious.
Additionally, the main irony here, of course, is that President Trump is the king of conspiracy theories and initially was drawn to Powell for the very reason that she spun such amazing conspiracies. He was seen to praise her several times starting back when she began to represent Michael Flynn. The stories and accusations that she made didn't seem to be more extreme than some of the things that Trump has said himself and many of them were the same as what the President had claimed.
So, what happened?
There seem to be three possible answers:
1) The simplest explanation is that the campaign realized how unbalanced she appears, and jettisoned her in an effort not to have another conspiracy theorist on the team throwing wild accusations at everyone and everything not even caring if they stick.
If this is the case it appears a bit strange that she is still in the spotlight, filing all kinds of legal cases, if not officially on behalf of Trump, then at least in support of the President and his own claims involving alternative realities.
2) The "Wag the Dog" answer would say that perhaps Powell is a plant intended to make Trump look more stable. If so she may be exaggerating her eccentricities to make the case, willingly taking the hit to her reputation as she makes herself look a bit unhinged and gets sacrificed for the good of the team. Let’s face it, it’s not as if this would be the first time Trump ordered someone to take a bullet for him. Do the names Steve Bannon, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn ring any bells? Of course, Trump denied knowing anything about any of their crimes but if you believe that I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn I’d love to sell you. So, distancing himself from Powell after she said exactly what he wanted her to say and letting her take the consequences would not be a stretch for the President.
3) The last answer is based on the theory that Trump suffers from an extreme form of narcissism. This explanation would suggest that Trump couldn’t tolerate anyone who does anything better than he does, even if that’s generating extreme conspiracy theories without proof or displaying delusional paranoia. There were some reports that Trump didn't like the attention Powell was getting or how long her press conferences tended to run. By distancing himself, her claims can still serve to support Trump, but more from the sidelines and the spotlight can return to him.
If nothing else, one thing seems clear at present. The fact that at some point Sidney Powell was brought onto the team, and made the public face of the legal efforts of the campaign despite her history, speaks to a certain amount of instability being embedded in the Trump campaign.
If they truly didn't realize how controversial Powell was, considering the claims, accusations, and threats she's made, one has to wonder how long it took for others on the team to realize that Powell may not have been the one to make the best impression of what were undeniably questionable legal efforts. The fact that she continues to be front and center to a certain degree suggests that they haven’t yet, at least not fully.
As we continue to wait for the chaos and heated exchanges in our political world to subside, it will be interesting to see if Powell no longer being an "official" Trump legal team member will make a difference. Given that she has yet to fade from public view, to the contrary she has been ramping up her attacks and conspiracy theories, it appears unlikely.