How guilty pleas could fuel Fulton election probe

Powell, Ellis, Chesebro and Hall could implicate others

Guilty pleas from four defendants in the Fulton County election interference probe could give prosecutors ammunition as they target former President Donald Trump and his inner circle.

Three attorneys who aided Trump’s effort to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia now have pleaded guilty to crimes and agreed to testify in the case. Each of them had some interaction with Trump or his top lieutenants. A fourth defendant who has pleaded guilty also could implicate a top Justice Department official involved Trump’s effort.

With guilty pleas from four of the 19 defendants in the case, Fulton County prosecutors also can narrow their focus, legal experts say.

Attorney Amy Lee Copeland, former appellate chief at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Savannah, compared what could come next to Saturday morning cartoons.

”If you remember Bugs Bunny cartoons from your youth, where the small snowball would then turn into a giant avalanche,” Copeland said. “That’s kind of what I view going on in the short term here is that people turn in other people who kind of make it grow on and spread.”

Here’s a look at who has pleaded guilty and the information they may be able to provide prosecutors:

Sidney Powell

Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts for her role in a January 2021 breach of Coffee County’s election system. But her access to Trump and his top deputies in the aftermath of the 2020 election suggests she could shed light on other areas of the wide-ranging case as well.

She met with Trump multiple times in weeks following the 2020 election, and she could testify about his actions. At one White House meeting, they discussed seizing voting machines and appointing her as a special prosecutor to investigate voting fraud.

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She also could have plenty to say about Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney. At times they worked together and appeared at a now infamous press conference where Powell made numerous false claims about The Dominion Voting Systems software used in Georgia.

Powell might be able to reveal whether Giuliani played a role in the Coffee County data breach. In court filings, Powell noted that local officials had sent an attorney “working with Mr. Giuliani” an “invitation” to come to Coffee County. Powell interpreted that correspondence as permission to examine the voting system data.

Last year, Giuliani told congressional investigators he received reports on the data breach.

“I didn’t get access,” Giuliani told investigators. “The people who had the access brought the information to us and demonstrated it to us.” While Giuliani has been indicted in the Fulton case, those charges do not relate to the south Georgia data breach.

Finally, Powell could testify about the roles of two other defendants involved in the data breach – former Coffee County elections supervisor Misty Hampton and former county GOP Chairwoman Cathy Latham. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Kenneth Chesebro

Chesebro pleaded guilty to one felony count for his role in Trump’s plan to use Republican electors to overturn Biden’s victory.

Chesebro was a principle author of that plan. He wrote a series of memos suggesting the General Assembly or Congress could name Trump the winner in Georgia and other states Biden won, citing dubious allegations of voting fraud as a pretext.

Chesebro could testify to the actions of attorney John Eastman, another Trump campaign attorney who helped shape the electors strategy. Congressional investigators found evidence that Chesebro and Eastman worked together on the plan.

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Chesebro also could testify about his communications with Giuliani, who tried to convince state legislators to overturn the election; Trump campaign official Michael Roman, who helped organize the electors; and then-Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer, who helped organize the electors in Georgia.

Citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Chesebro declined to answer when congressional investigators asked him whether he had spoken directly with Trump about the electors plan.

Jenna Ellis

Ellis pleaded guilty to one felony count for her role in promoting numerous false voting fraud claims at a legislative hearing in Atlanta in December 2020.

In a tearful courtroom statement, she said had failed to “make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were, in fact, true.” Now Ellis could testify against some of those lawyers, including co-defendants Giuliani and Atlanta attorney Ray Smith, who also made false claims at the hearing.

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Ellis also appeared with Giuliani and Powell at the infamous press conference. And she worked with Giuliani on efforts to lobby legislators in other states. One example: She joined a November 2020 White House meeting with Pennsylvania legislators, along with Trump, Giuliani and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.

Ellis also could shed light on other actions by Meadows – congressional investigators uncovered at least 350 text messages between her and Meadows in the weeks after the election. And she could testify about two memos she wrote – one addressed to Trump – justifying his unsuccessful effort to have Vice President Mike Pence and Congress overturn the election on Jan. 6, 2021.

Scott Hall

Hall pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts for his role in the Coffee County data breach. Like Powell, he could testify against Hampton and Latham.

Hall also might be able to shed light on any role that co-defendant Bob Cheeley played in the Coffee County incident. According to a GBI investigation report, Hall had dinner with Cheeley a few weeks before the data breach. Another dinner attendee came away with the impression that Cheeley could be a “driving force” behind the Coffee County incident – though the attendee later changed his mind about Cheeley’s role.

Hall also could shed light on Cheeley’s role in the harassment of two Fulton County election workers. Prosecutors cite numerous phone calls among Hall, Cheeley and several co-defendants charged with harassing the workers – Harrison William Prescott Floyd, Trevian Kutti and Stephen Cliffgard Lee.

Finally, Hall could testify about the actions of Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clark. Clark is charged for his role in seeking to have Gov. Brian Kemp and other Georgia officials overturn Joe Biden’s victory under the false pretense that the Justice Department had “significant concerns” about voting fraud – the agency had no such concerns. According to the indictment, Hall called Clark on Jan. 2, 2021, and had a 63-minute conversation about the presidential election.

Staff writers Tamar Hallerman and Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this report