NEW YORK (AP) — The Kraken has cracked.
Lawyer Sidney Powell, who famously vowed to unleash a mythical sea monster of litigation to prove that Donald Trump didn’t lose the 2020 election, has now struck a deal with Georgia prosecutors admitting she conspired to wrongly interfere with the state’s election results.
Her guilty plea Thursday culminates a three-year journey in which she pursued baseless and often outlandish theories in the weeks before a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Along the way, Powell was part of several key events in the state and federal indictments against Trump for his conduct in the 2020 election and now becomes a potential witness against him.
She’s the second person to take a plea after bail bondsman Scott Graham Hall pleaded guilty last month.
“Sidney Powell was part of Trump’s inner circle at various points in the criminal conspiracy, particularly as Trump became more desperate in the final weeks of his presidency,” Bradley P. Moss, a Washington-based national security attorney who opposes Trump, said in an email. “Her testimony, more than peripheral players like Scott Hall, will provide first-person insight into those critical moments in her part of the larger conspiracy. Powell’s role is only one prong but as dominoes continue to fall it is likely those other prongs will also be corroborated by Trump’s other co-defendants.”
Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in the Georgia case, expressed confidence about Powell’s plea. “Assuming truthful testimony in the Fulton County case, it will be favorable to my overall defense strategy,” he said.
Powell, 68, served as a federal prosecutor before becoming a high-profile defense attorney in Dallas. She was a well-known critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
She rose in Trump’s orbit thanks to her representation of Michael Flynn, the retired general who has become a star on the far right. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts during the 2016 transition period as he was entering Trump’s administration as national security adviser.
Powell fought to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea and, after the Justice Department dropped the prosecution in May 2020, repeatedly argued that the judge in the case could not contest the government’s decision and had no choice but to dismiss the matter. Trump ultimately pardoned Flynn in the final weeks of his presidency.
By then, Powell was attacking the integrity of the 2020 election.
Trump’s former attorney general said the Justice Department found no evidence of fraud that could change the election result. An Associated Press review published in December 2021 tallied every potential case of voter fraud in six battleground states and found fewer than 475, nowhere near the margin required to affect any results.
But in a Fox Business interview that November, Powell declared: “I’m going to release the Kraken.” Her comment quickly became notorious and her reference to the mythical sea monster only heightened the fantastical nature of the effort.
Trump’s campaign legal team distanced itself from her after an outlandish news conference days later. She took the stage after an appearance from Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani as dark streaks of what appeared to be hair dye streamed down his face. She launched into a theory about election software having been created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez” — the Venezuelan president who died in 2013.
Powell also claimed in a different interview that she would “blow up” Georgia” with a “biblical” election lawsuit.
She filed suits in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona, all states that went for Biden in 2020. They recycled debunked claims about fraud and were riddled with typos and factual mistakes, leading to mocking on social media.
Despite losing her role on the campaign legal team, she remained in Trump’s orbit. She also participated in a fateful Dec. 18, 2020 session in the Oval Office that became central to investigations of the Capitol insurrection.
Along with Flynn, Powell suggested that Trump order the U.S. military to seize voting machines in the states, according to the report produced by the U.S. House committee that investigated Jan. 6. The meeting, which also involved the former head of the online retail company Overstock, devolved into shouting and screaming as White House lawyers and other officials tried to intervene, according to Jan. 6 committee testimony.
Trump considered naming her as a special counsel to investigate allegations of voter fraud, according to the committee.
Powell was later sued by voting technology firm Dominion Voter Systems for defamation. That lawsuit is ongoing.
In Michigan, another state where Trump’s outside lawyers sought to challenge election results, a state watchdog filed a complaint earlier this year saying that Powell and others on Trump’s team abused the court system with a “frivolous” lawsuit.
The State Bar of Texas, a state where Powell is licensed to practice law, filed a petition accusing Powell of misconduct by filing “frivolous” voter fraud lawsuits in four states and sought to discipline her, but a judge earlier this year dismissed the case, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Powell was initially charged in Georgia with racketeering and other counts as part of a scheme to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia in the election. Prosecutors say she also played a role in the unauthorized breach of election equipment in an elections office in the state.
She is referenced, though not named, as one of six unindicted co-conspirators in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal case charging the former president with plotting to overturn the election.
Powell’s attorney declined to comment on Thursday. But ultimately, as part of her plea deal with prosecutors, she will serve six years of probation and pay a $6,000 fine.
She will also have to write a letter of apology to the state of Georgia and its residents.
Lawrence Norden, the senior director of the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center of Justice, said that with another presidential election looming next year, Powell’s guilty plea sends an important message.
“I do think the guilty plea here is an important reminder to election officials but also the public more generally that you can’t just engage in illegal interference in elections and not expect that there will be consequences,” he said.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.