Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Trifecta That Could Sink Trump’s Defense

Three things are consistent with Donald Trump: (i) he will lie incessantly, (ii) he cares only for himself and will happily throw under the bus, and (iii) he will claim any attempt to hold him accountable for crimes is a "witch hunt" or that he is being persecuted.  The MAGA base is also consistent in that it (a) ignores objective reality and facts and (b) it keeps itself in the bubble of right wing media as a means to avoid facing the reality that it has been duped and continuously played for fools. With the leak of videos of plea sessions with three of Trump's former attorneys in the Georgia RICO lawsuit (who have decided not to go to prison for Trump), we have a glimpse of how three of Trump's former attorneys are likely to save themselves by testifying to facts that demonstrate that Trump knew the "Big Lie" was false and that he knowingly sought to overthrow the 2020 election, plus that his claims that he relied on legal counsel are false.  If nothing else, Trump is always a liar.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the testimony that may well sink Trumps dishonest defense and hopefully help cement his criminal conviction - and perhaps cause other defendants to cut plea deals rather than go down with Trump.  Here are column highlights:

In exchange for reduced charges and stay-out-of-jail cards in the massive Georgia state criminal case arising from former president Donald Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election, former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell and Atlanta bail bondsman Scott Hall delivered statements concerning their knowledge of facts critical to the prosecution’s case.

Excerpts of those statements were leaked this week. Based on what has been revealed, having such figures testify at trial will go a long way toward eviscerating any argument that Trump merely relied on “advice of counsel” and could undermine Trump’s expected defense that he lacked criminal intent.

Ellis claimed that on Dec. 19, 2020, she told Trump aide Dan Scavino that Trump was running out of options. According to Ellis, Scavino replied, “Well, we don’t care, and we’re not going to leave.” He reiterated, “The boss is not going to leave under any circumstances. We are just going to stay in power.”

Such testimony might create problems for Scavino, who has not been charged, in tying him to the alleged “criminal enterprise” that is at the heart of the Georgia case. Moreover, if Scavino was accurately relating Trump’s thinking — and can testify to statements made in his presence — any Trump claim that he lacked the requisite intent would go out the window.

Moreover, as Just Security co-founder Ryan Goodman noted, this testimony is consistent with another key witness’s account. He pointed to Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony about Trump finding out on Dec. 11, 2020, that he lost the Supreme Court case: “I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark [Meadows]. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out.” Again, if Trump knew he lost, the prosecution practically has a slam dunk on proving criminal intent.

Trump’s “I thought I won” is no defense. Even if he believed that, it would not excuse alleged illegal actions ranging from acquiring phony electors to attempting to disrupt an official proceeding. However, evidence that he knew he lost and was intent on staying anyway certainly would help prove “corrupt intent” beyond a reasonable doubt.

Meanwhile, as The Post reported, “Chesebro disclosed in his recorded statement that at a previously unreported White House meeting, he briefed Trump on election challenges in Arizona and summarized a memo in which he offered advice on assembling alternate slates of electors in key battleground states to cast ballots for Trump despite Biden’s victories in those states.” That testimony would undermine any defense claim that Trump did not know about the elector plan or that the “alternate” slate contradicted the actual results.

For her part, Powell buried the advice of counsel defense. She acknowledged that Trump paid attention to Rudy Giuliani and her, despite her lack of election law experience, “because we were the only ones willing to support his effort to sustain the White House. I mean, everybody else was telling him to pack up and go.”

In short, a slew of lawyers (including Eric Herschmann and Jeffrey Rosen, according to testimony provided to the Jan. 6 House select committee) was telling Trump that the plan to come up with phony electors and get then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out Joe Biden’s electoral votes was insane.

[T]he phony-elector scheme is also front and center in the federal Jan. 6, 2021, case set to go to trial March 4. All three witnesses can be called in that case to testify; any deviation from their proffers would put their plea deals in jeopardy and expose them to perjury charges.

Other Georgia defendants, including Giuliani, Jeffrey Clark and Mark Meadows, have to be worried. . . . . “Ms. Ellis was most closely associated with Mr. Giuliani, appearing by his side in Georgia and across the country. If her court appearance last week is any indication, she will be a compelling guide to his alleged misconduct.” That seems to have been prescient.

Most Republicans would rather not consider the possibility that their MAGA base will nominate Trump for president only to see him shortly thereafter convicted of serious crimes concerning his alleged attempted coup. Trump enjoys the presumption of innocence in court, but Republicans’ determination to ignore the real possibility their nominee would go to voters in November 2024 as a felon borders on political delusion.

The latest evidence from the lips of Trump’s own lawyers makes his conviction that much more likely — and suggests his nomination would be an act of political suicide. Republicans seem bent on going down that path. Well, they will not be able to say they weren’t warned.

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