President Donald Trump appears to have cut ties with Sidney Powell, a key member of his legal team who also represents former national security adviser Michael Flynn in his long-running attempt to unravel a guilty plea for lying about his 2016 contacts with Russia.
The abrupt shake-up came in a terse Sunday-evening statement from the Trump campaign that offered no explanation for Powell’s removal.
“Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own,” Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis said in the statement. “She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”
She has accused election officials in multiple states of committing crimes, and in recent days turned on Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, who on Friday helped certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Her attack on Kemp, which also included the threat of a “biblical” lawsuit, appeared to unsettle some of Trump’s allies.
“Sidney Powell accusing Governor Brian Kemp of a crime on television yet being unwilling to go on TV and defend and lay out the evidence that she supposedly has, this is outrageous conduct,” former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Sunday.
Trump announced Powell as a centerpiece of his legal team in a recent tweet, declaring that she, Giuliani and others would form a team that would later dub itself an “elite strike force.”
But the team has so far failed to produce any meaningful legal wins, and in fact has been repeatedly rebuffed by federal judges who have excoriated the Trump lawyers for demanding draconian measures — like throwing out millions of lawful ballots — without presenting evidence to justify it.
In recent days, Republicans aligned with the national party began to express increasing reservations about Powell’s rhetoric, including the claim that Trump had “won by a landslide,” even though Biden is millions ahead in the popular vote and won states equating to 306 electoral votes, compared with Trump’s 232.
The national GOP on Thursday posted a video clip of Powell making the claim, and Ellis, the Trump campaign’s attorney, celebrated Powell’s remarks at last week’s press conference.
Mike DuHaime, the Republican National Committee’s former political director, tweeted on Sunday that the party must pull down its tweet endorsing Powell’s remarks now that she’s been removed from representing Trump or the campaign.
“This is crazy/embarrassing to promote,” he tweeted.
And Powell’s attacks on Georgia’s governor and top election official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who are Republicans, come as the GOP is fighting to retain control of the Senate in two Georgia runoffs scheduled for Jan. 5.
Powell has been a fixture of the conservative media circuit for years but became particularly prominent in the Trump era as the firebrand attorney for Flynn. Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI, fired his legal team last year and hired Powell, who helped lead his push to rescind his guilty plea and lodge incendiary court filings about allegations of FBI and Justice Department misconduct.
At a hearing on the matter in September, Powell revealed that she had held a meeting with Trump in the previous weeks at which she urged him not to pardon Flynn so they could continue fighting out his case.
Powell has assailed the judge in the matter, Emmet Sullivan, even though she once lionized him in a book for his handling of prosecutorial misconduct in the case of former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.