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Former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell pleads guilty in Georgia election interference case

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Sidney Powell, a former attorney for Donald Trump, has pleaded guilty in the sweeping Georgia election interference case.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAYSHA YOUNG: How do you plead to the six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties?

SIDNEY POWELL: Guilty.

DETROW: Powell and Trump are two of the 19 people charged in that case. Jury selection for Powell's trial had been set to begin tomorrow. WABE's Sam Gringlas is with us from Atlanta. Hey, Sam.

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

DETROW: So first of all, remind us of the role that Sidney Powell played in advising Trump and around the election.

GRINGLAS: Sidney Powell was a campaign lawyer for Trump after the 2020 election. She vocally spun conspiracy theories about fraud, implicating Venezuela, Cuba, China. At one press conference, she even baselessly claimed voting machines could flip votes. And she attended a White House meeting with Trump where it was suggested she be appointed special counsel to investigate voter fraud.

DETROW: She was pretty unapologetic all along, especially pushing these conspiracy theories that had no basis whatsoever in fact. But here, on the verge of the trial, she pleads guilty. What exactly did she plead to?

GRINGLAS: Yeah. Powell pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties. Powell directed an IT firm to access voting equipment in rural Coffee County, Ga. This was after the election, when Trump's allies were searching for evidence of fraud. And state investigators later determined that they were able to access a server, ballot scanners, memory cards. Now, Powell was not the only person prosecutors charged in this effort. One of them, bail bondsman Scott Hall - he pleaded guilty last month.

DETROW: What are the terms of this plea deal?

GRINGLAS: Powell was originally charged with seven felonies. Now they're just misdemeanors. She's agreed to six years' probation, a $6,000 fine, a letter of apology and restitution to the Georgia Secretary of State's office. But most importantly, Scott, Powell will have to testify truthfully at the trials of her codefendants. And sure enough, on Wednesday, she did a recorded interview with prosecutors.

DETROW: I mean, that's a big deal. She was such a key person in the effort to deny and overturn the election - any sense yet how this plead affects the broader case here?

GRINGLAS: Well, there are more than a dozen others who have not accepted deals, including Trump. They're all charged in a racketeering, or RICO, case for conspiring to keep Trump in office. I talked to one defense attorney who's done a bunch of RICO cases, Bob Rubin, and he told me that Powell's plea is a very big deal.

BOB RUBIN: Look. If Sidney Powell's coming into court saying, I said a lot of these things; you know, in my heart of hearts, I knew they weren't true, and when I spoke to Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump, they knew these things were not true, but they encouraged me to keep saying these things I mean, that's the case.

GRINGLAS: Now, we don't know if that's what she'll say. I exchanged emails today with Trump's lead counsel in Georgia, Steve Sadow, and he said, assuming Powell gives truthful testimony, it will be favorable to his defense, not to prosecutors.

DETROW: All right. Well, what comes next here?

GRINGLAS: The first codefendant is set to go to trial next week now, just without Powell alongside him - lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, author of the so-called fake elector plan. It is still possible he could accept an eleventh-hour plea deal. But for now, 450 potential jurors are expected to report for duty tomorrow morning.

DETROW: That's WABE's Sam Gringlas in Atlanta. Sam, it is always good to talk to you.

GRINGLAS: Thanks, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD AND GHOSTFACE KILLAH SONG, "GUNSHOWERS FT. ELZHI") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.