Byron York: What next for Trump legal team?

Published 12:21 am Friday, November 27, 2020

By Byron York

The Trump campaign’s top lawyers — Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis — went into last weekend on the offensive. On Thursday, they held a news conference vowing to prove the existence of a far-ranging conspiracy to defeat the president. They were pressing a case alleging unfair voting practices in Pennsylvania. They were predicting victory.

By Sunday night, everything had changed.

A judge threw out the Pennsylvania case. Then, amid widespread skepticism, Powell, the author of a theory that voting machines had changed millions of Trump votes into Biden votes, was booted from the team, leaving an uncertain future.

First, Pennsylvania. No one should be surprised that Trump lost. The suit was against the Pennsylvania secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, and seven individual counties. It relied on two plaintiffs — two Pennsylvania men who said their mail-in ballots had been canceled for technical reasons, and they were not given a chance to correct them.

The judge agreed that the two men had suffered what is called an “injury in fact” — that is, their votes had not counted. But the problem was, neither man lived in any of the seven counties the Trump campaign named as defendants in the case. So none of the defendant counties had anything to do with the ballots in question. In addition, the suit did not tie the plaintiffs’ situation to Boockvar. So none of the defendants had anything to do with the plaintiffs’ complaints.

Nevertheless, the Trump campaign had sought to stop certification of Pennsylvania’s results, set for Tuesday of this week. Roughly 6.9 million people voted in the state, with Joe Biden winning by 81,000 votes. There was no way the judge was going to do that, based on two voters in a case in which the Trump campaign didn’t even sue the right counties. So on Saturday night, the judge threw it out. The Trump campaign will appeal.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. On Thursday, Powell had alleged that there was an international conspiracy, fueled by “the massive influence of Communist money through Venezuela, Cuba and likely China,” to overturn a Trump victory in the election. She alleged that the Dominion voting system and Smartmatic software, originally developed for Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, had flipped hundreds of thousands or even millions of votes for Donald Trump to Joe Biden. She said that she would prove Trump “won by a landslide.”

When journalists, notably Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, asked Powell to provide some evidence to back up her charge, she refused. That led to a weird divide among some Trump supporters.

Journalists questioned Powell’s case, while some supporters attacked the journalists, saying Powell had the evidence but had no obligation to reveal it to the public. It would all come out in court, they said.

Then Powell went even further. On Friday night, she appeared on Newsmax, where she alleged that the Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, and the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, were “in on the Dominion scam.” She said Kemp and Raffensperger had accepted payoffs as part of the conspiracy.

Powell finally went too far. She was accusing Georgia’s top officials of bribery, but would not offer any evidence other than she had “been told” there was evidence. Within 24 hours, the Trump legal team sent out this brief press release: “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump legal team. She is also not a lawyer for the president in his personal capacity.”

Powell was out, although she can certainly continue to act on her own, as another pro-Trump lawyer, Georgia’s Lin Wood, is doing. But where that leaves her theory and vow to “blow up” Georgia is unclear.

Speaking of Georgia, Powell’s antics on behalf of the president’s team threatened to roil and divide Republicans in the state that is vitally important to the GOP right now. Georgia means everything. Its two Senate runoff races on Jan. 5 will determine who will control the Senate in the first two years of the Biden presidency. If Republicans control the Senate, they can stop Biden’s agenda cold and, in the process, preserve some of Trump’s legacy. If Democrats win the Senate, with their narrow control of the House, there are almost no limits on what they can do.

So it was politically ill-advised — some would say crazy — to seek to “blow up” Georgia. The goal for Republicans is to win Georgia. They will not do that by accusing the state’s Republican governor, who is a strong supporter of the president, of corruption. They will not do that by alleging that hundreds of thousands of Georgians had their votes secretly changed by software from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.

Instead, they will win Georgia by campaigning there and by supporting the two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are running. It appears the White House might have finally figured that out.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.