President Trump’s campaign on Sunday turned down Sidney Powell, one of his lawyers who made false claims of electoral fraud, after rampaging allegations that Republican officials were involved in a payoff program to manipulate voting machines.
Ms. Powell’s rejection, carried out by former allies such as Rudolph W. Giuliani, added undesirable drama to the president’s legal team at a moment when it loses on a case-by-case basis, and provided a public window into nature and chaos Amateur tactics of most of his previous attempts to combat the election result.
While many election officials, White House advisors, and professional lawyers want nothing to do with the allegations, a small group of lawyers for Mr Trump’s campaign has led a widely ridiculed, circus-like legal effort to attempt to invalidate votes and to prevent states from certifying their results.
People like Ms. Powell and Mr. Giuliani have been frequent guests on conservative newscasts making false claims that were rejected by judges or that the Trump campaign did not repeat in court for lack of evidence.
Ms. Powell, who was not directly involved in cases where the Trump campaign was brought to court, appeared at a press conference with her legal team just last week and was welcomed by the President and many of his allies for their strong and unconditional defense of a number of unfounded claims.
However, on Sunday the Trump campaign reversed course.
“Sidney Powell is a self-employed attorney,” said a statement. “She’s not a member of the Trump legal team. Nor is she an advocate for the President in his personal capacity. “
In a statement to CBS News, Ms. Powell said she understood the testimony of Mr. Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, another Trump attorney, and that she would continue to file a lawsuit related to her unfounded allegations of election fraud.
The denial came a day after a Pennsylvania judge broke arguments put forward in court by other members of Mr. Trump’s legal team that millions of votes were about to be invalidated in the state.
Ms. Powell was described as a member of the legal team’s “Elite Strike Force” at Thursday’s press conference as she put forward an elaborate conspiracy theory about the efforts of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, to essentially rig elections in the United States using voting machines Dominion Voting Systems. While Mr Trump is obsessed with the idea of a global conspiracy, cybersecurity officials have told his own administration that there is no evidence that machines have been compromised.
When Ms. Powell appeared on the conservative network Newsmax on Saturday night, she pushed conspiracy theory further, saying that two top Georgia Republicans – Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – would receive payouts under the program and that representative Doug Collins of Georgia had actually won his race for the Senate against Senator Kelly Loeffler. (He didn’t; Ms. Loeffler’s race goes to a runoff without Mr. Collins.) Ms. Powell said she intends to file a “biblical” lawsuit in the state.
Two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 are set to determine which party controls the Senate, and Republicans are concerned that the Trump campaign’s legal efforts there could impact those races that are likely to have a lower turnout than the general election this month.
Ms. Powell’s claims have been widely ridiculed, including by some Trump allies. Chris Christie, the Republican former governor of New Jersey, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the legal team has become a “national embarrassment”. Most of the President’s other lawyers have refused to join his efforts to delay the confirmation of the vote in states.
Mr Trump has been upset about Mr Giuliani and Ms. Powell for a few days, advisors said, complaining about how Ms. Powell sounded at Thursday’s press conference, how black streams of fluid had dripped down Mr Giuliani’s face and how long the appearance stretched would have.
On Saturday and Sunday, several advisors to the President asked Mr Trump to part with Ms. Powell, participants said. One of these people said that even Mr. Giuliani realized she had gone too far.
But Ms. Powell also made an easy target for distraction by Mr. Giuliani and others when Mr. Trump sparked his frustrations over the Pennsylvania judge’s damning decision.
Other Mr Trump lawyers, who have largely stayed out of the fight, believe that Mr Giuliani and Ms. Powell merely told the president what he wanted to hear. The President maintained Ms. Powell’s claims that Dominion machines had been used for the past two weeks.
The approach of Ms. Powell’s conspiracy theory – that a powerful and vast network of Mr. Trump’s enemies cheated him out of victory – has been largely constant, although the cast of perpetrators and accomplices varied from scene to scene.
In an interview last week on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in which she spoke for almost 20 minutes with few interruptions, Ms. Powell claimed the voting machines in question were designed to falsify elections.
The day before, Ms. Powell told Fox Business that the conspiracy involved “dead people” voting “in large numbers” – again with no evidence – and claimed that fraudulent paper votes were also part of the program.
In September, Ms. Powell admitted during a hearing in Washington federal district court that she had taken the highly unusual step of informing Mr. Trump about the case of one of her most prominent clients, Michael T. Flynn, former national of Mr. Trump’s security advisor.
While representing Mr. Flynn, Ms. Powell frequently stepped up social media posts promoting QAnon, the conspiracy theory whose proponents believe that Mr. Trump is fighting a cabal of satanic pedophiles.
The cold shoulder on Ms. Powell was only the final embarrassment for Mr. Trump’s legal team, for which more than 30 lawsuits questioning the integrity of the elections were either dismissed or voluntarily withdrawn in half a dozen battlefield states.
A big loss came Saturday night in Pennsylvania when Federal Judge Matthew W. Brann filed a lawsuit against the confirmation of the state’s election results and blubbered them by comparing their reasoning with saying “Frankenstein’s monster” and “Frankenstein’s monster” that it was “not supported by the evidence”.
Jeremy W. Peters contributed to the coverage.