Another plea deal in Trump election interference probe refocuses the case

Chesebro guilty plea means there will be no October trial

Another defendant accepted a plea deal in Fulton County’s wide-ranging election interference case on Friday, halting what could have been a five-month criminal trial and reshaping the prosecution former President Donald Trump and his top allies.

Attorney Kenneth Chesebro — one of the authors of a plan to use Republican presidential electors to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia — pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit filing false documents. He was originally charged with seven felony counts in the case, including racketeering.

Chesebro will serve five years of probation, pay $5,000 in restitution to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and serve 100 hours of community service. He also must write an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, hand over documents and testify truthfully as the case proceeds.

Chesebro is the third defendant to plead guilty in the case and the second this week. He is the first to plead guilty to a felony. On Thursday attorney Sidney Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor charges for her role in an election data breach in Coffee County. Atlanta bail bondsman Scott Hall previously reached a deal in the same Coffee County incident.

Chesebro and Powell had both asked for speedy trials so their cases were moving faster than those of the other Fulton County defendants.

The deals are a major victory for prosecutors, who charged 19 people for their roles in an allegedly illegal scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election. It’s likely the the new witnesses will offer testimony to bolster Fulton DA Fani Willis’ case against high-profile defendants, like Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Documents released by congressional investigators show Chesebro played a key role in the Republican electors plan. He drafted 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 sought unsuccessfully to have the memos excluded as evidence in the trial.

Trump’s campaign organized Republican electors in Georgia and six other states Biden won. They met and voted for Trump even as each state’s official electors cast their ballots for Biden. In most cases, they also filed paperwork as if they were the states’ official electors.

Fulton County prosecutors charged three of the Republican electors. A grand jury also indicted Trump, Chesebro, attorneys John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani and others allegedly involved in the plan.

Buzz of a potential plea deal spread throughout the courthouse as soon as it opened on Friday. But hours before the agreement was announced a little after noon, 450 potential jurors streamed into the seventh floor jury services room to fill out a lengthy questionnaire with questions about their backgrounds, political leanings and a biases that could have an impact during trial.

After the agreement was finalized, one of Chesebro’s attorneys, Scott Grubman, clarified that his client had been recording a statement with prosecutors elsewhere in the courthouse as the jurors were filling out their questionnaires.

Even though Chesebro pleaded guilty to a felony, his attorneys believed he would still be able to keep his law license.

Grubman said the agreement underscores his client has been mischaracterized as a key figure behind the Republican electors plan. He noted Chesebro “gets to go home to his family now” and will “not spend one day in jail.”

“While Mr. Chesebro obviously stood up and accepted responsibility as part of a plea deal, I think the plea deal absolutely shows and proves he was not — and never was — the architect of some fake elector planning,” Grubman told reporters after Friday’s hearing.

Asked about whether Trump should be concerned about Chesebro’s testimony, Grubman replied that he didn’t think so.

Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead counsel in Atlanta, said Chesebro’s guilty plea “was the result of pressure by (District Attorney) Fani Willis and her team and the prosecution’s looming threat of prison time.”

“I fully expect that truthful testimony would be favorable to my defense strategy,” Sadow said.