Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, Donald Trump’s two indicted coup lawyers who volunteered to face trial first in Atlanta, are taking on the former president’s court docket and doing everything they can to impress the jury that sits above her Fate will decide to defile.
And if they succeed, they could set a new legal precedent that could be applied to Trump’s case and the trials of other co-conspirators in Georgia.
Friday marks the start of a difficult and drawn-out jury selection process that could last weeks as prosecutors and defense attorneys try to resolve a fundamental question: How to agree on a dozen fair-minded jurors in the Fulton County District? The lawyer claims that every Georgian was the victim of a conspiracy to deny them the right to vote?
A preliminary hearing on Monday showed how difficult it will be – and how defense attorneys, drafting a questionnaire for all potential jurors, are already specifically asking the judge to break the rules.
In a case that has already been denounced by Trump supporters as nothing more than partisan politics, Powell and Chesebro’s lawyers want to conduct a “Gallup poll,” which the judge deemed highly irregular, to determine what the jury was thinking about everyone who was involved in the attempted coup thinks the 2020 election results.
Even stranger, the defense team wants to bluntly ask about reactions to statements that evoke deeply sectarian prejudices, such as: MAGA Republicans are radicals and white supremacistsAnd Trump tried to steal the election and take my vote away.
“These are attitudinal questions … we could use them to test whether they are actually fair and impartial,” Brian T. Rafferty, Powell’s attorney, said in court Monday.
Scott R. Grubman, Chesebro’s attorney, jumped in as special prosecutor Nathan Wade shook his head.
“Literally, that’s why we’re here,” Grubman said.
Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee reminded everyone that there are long-standing rules that, for obvious reasons, generally prohibit asking a juror how to judge a case before even hearing evidence.
“We’ve always had a hard line in the sand … we’re not asking the jury to tell us how you’re going to vote,” the judge responded. “The role of a questionnaire is, among other things, to focus on the essentials. This does not ignore the general standards that can be expected of jurors, period.”
“We shouldn’t ask the jury to give their opinion in advance,” the judge reiterated.
McAfee appeared particularly uncomfortable with the way defense attorneys plan to list potential witnesses and all 19 defendants in the case – from the former president to a relatively unknown U.S. Marine involved in Black Voices for Trump is – and potential jurors want to ask how they feel about these people. The choices apparently ranged from “very unfavorable” to “very favorable,” prompting the judge to deride it as a “Gallup poll.”
The mere request shows how defense attorneys are already laying the groundwork for potentially denouncing the trial as unfair and nothing more than political theater from the start.
The public’s impression of the justice system’s ability to handle these prosecutions is particularly sensitive in the first phase of the trial, given that it involves figures as divisive as Trump and the top brass who supported his attempt to use force to stay in power , led.
The list of potential witnesses includes figures such as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and right-wing media personality Steve Bannon. Powell’s lawyer argued that they needed to know the jury’s opinion of everyone involved in the case since it was a first step in the Trump trial anyway.
“The government has indicated its intention to prove its entire case over a six-month period. It has nothing to do with Sidney Powell. If the government intends to offer a range of information about Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, then ask the jury what they think,” Rafferty said.
The judge appeared unimpressed by that argument and removed the awkward survey from the questionnaire – but said he would still allow defense attorneys to ask those questions during oral interviews with potential jurors.
For Powell and Chesebro, the stakes are particularly high. The two are among 19 accused of taking part in a vast conspiracy to keep Trump in the White House after he lost his re-election campaign. Powell, who was notorious for leading what she called the multi-tentacled “Kraken” supermonster in lawsuits seeking to overturn elections, was criminally charged with making false statements and attempting to commit election fraud by she broke into voting machines in rural Georgia. Chesebro, who wrote legal memos outlining how Republican sham voters could conduct parallel votes in the Electoral College if some states managed to forcibly overturn the election results, was accused of attempting to impersonate an official and creating forgery have.
But while District Attorney Fani Willis wanted to bring everyone to trial at once – and soon – Powell and Chesebro decided to speed up their legal battle and give their staff a preview of what was to come.
This context helps explain why their defense attorneys are so eager to disrupt the status quo in the courtroom, and how everyone accused of participating in this mob-style criminal enterprise can now collectively benefit from the chaos.
There were tell-tale signs Monday that MAGA defenders are adopting the same rule-breaking strategies that Trump himself has used in his ongoing legal battles across the country. Defense attorneys urged the judge to do away with traditions and established legal principles because, as always with anything Trump-related, the rules simply shouldn’t apply.
“I think it would be a mistake for any of us to treat this like a normal case… I think reality really needs to sink in here. This is no ordinary case. It’s not because of anything we do. It’s because of the way they charged it,” Grubman argued, blaming the prosecutor for starting the case in the first place.
He described the trial as “a case that has no parallels in Georgia history or American jurisprudence.”
But Assistant District Attorney Alex Bernick rejected the notion that now is the time to abandon the straight and narrow path.
“He wants you to disregard the jurisprudence just because it’s a high-profile case. We have to follow the law here,” Bernick said.
The judge told everyone that he would “take the matter under advisement.”