A former attorney for Donald Trump has told Georgia prosecutors that a top presidential aide said to her in December 2020 that “the boss” did not plan to leave the White House “under any circumstances,” according to a video recording obtained by The Washington Post.
Jenna Ellis, a onetime Trump lawyer who pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for her testimony in the Fulton County, Ga., case, told prosecutors in the video that Dan Scavino, Trump’s deputy chief of staff at the time, was unfazed by her view that the president was running out of options to challenge Joe Biden’s victory.
“And he said to me, you know, in a kind of excited tone, ‘Well, we don’t care, and we’re not going to leave,’” Ellis said in the video.
The description comes from a series of recordings obtained by The Post of the statements of the four defendants who have accepted plea deals in the Georgia case - recordings that they were required to make under the terms of their deals and that were intended to lay out what they know that could be used against the other defendants in the case.
Although some of the recordings were garbled, the portions of the four statements that The Post was able to review - from Ellis, lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, and Georgia bail bondsman Scott Hall - offered many previously undisclosed details about the effort by Trump and his allies to reverse his defeat.
Chesebro disclosed in his recorded statement that at a previously unreported White House meeting, he briefed Trump on election challenges in Arizona and summarized a memo in which he offered advice on assembling alternate slates of electors in key battlegrounds to cast ballots for Trump despite Biden’s victories in those states.
Chesebro’s recollection would bolster evidence that Trump was personally involved in the elector scheme.
Prosecutors repeatedly pressed Powell on why Trump was leaning on her for legal advice, ignoring the counsel of White House attorneys and others who told him that he had lost the election.
Asked why she thought Trump did that, Powell replied, “Because we were the only ones willing to support his effort to sustain the White House. I mean, everybody else was telling him to pack up and go.”
The sweeping Fulton indictment, unsealed in August, accuses Trump and 18 other defendants — including Rudy Giuliani, his former personal attorney; Mark Meadows, his former chief of staff; former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark; and former Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer — of a wide-ranging conspiracy to steal the 2020 election.
The charges fall into several buckets of alleged criminal behavior: the meeting of the Trump slate of presidential electors in Atlanta; Trump’s pressure campaign with multiple Georgia state officials seeking their help in reversing his defeat; a breach of election equipment in rural Coffee County, Ga., in a hunt for evidence of fraud; and harassment of two local election workers in Fulton County who were falsely accused of counting fraudulent ballots on election night. The case is separate from the federal election interference investigation by special counsel Jack Smith, in which only Trump has been charged so far.
Some of the details from the videos were first reported Monday by ABC News.
An attorney for Scavino did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis declined to comment.
The audible portions of the Fulton recordings reviewed by The Post do not appear to directly implicate Trump. At one point in Powell’s interview, she said Trump really believed he had won - a statement that could help his defense. But Powell also said that Giuliani spoke of a plan to gain access to voting equipment at a Dec. 18, 2020, meeting with Trump and others in the Oval Office. And Hall appeared to implicate another defendant, lawyer Robert Cheeley, describing Cheeley as the person who called the shots in the Coffee County scheme. A Giuliani spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a lawyer for Cheeley declined to comment.
Both revelations suggested that prosecutors are following a playbook that Willis has become known for — a sweeping indictment using Georgia’s expansive anti-racketeering statute with multiple defendants and then a series of plea deals that lead to incriminating evidence that can be used against other defendants. In past RICO cases, Willis has indicted dozens of defendants, only to accept round after round of plea deals that have bolstered her case against the remaining defendants.
Whether the Scavino story about not leaving the White House will be admissible in court is likely to become a topic of debate between Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors, given that it could be deemed hearsay.
Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in the Fulton County case, said any “purported” private conversation is “is absolutely meaningless.”
“The only salient and telling fact is that President Trump left the White House on January 20, 2021, and returned to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida,” Sadow said. “If this is the nonsense line of inquiry being pursued and this is the type of bogus, ridiculous ‘evidence’ DA Willis intends to rely upon, it is one more reason that this political, travesty of a case must be dismissed.”
Other new details revealed in the recordings include:
- Powell said that if Trump had appointed her special counsel to investigate election irregularities, as she had urged him to do in that Dec. 18 Oval Office meeting, she would have sought to seize election equipment and would have used the military to do so if necessary.
- Chesebro also disclosed for the first time that he played a role transporting documents signed by Wisconsin Trump electors to Capitol Hill as part of a Trump campaign plan to present Vice President Mike Pence with competing slates of electors.
- Powell said she still believes “machine fraud” tainted the 2020 presidential election. “I hate to use one of Rudy’s phrases, but it doesn’t pass the prosecutor smell test,” she said.
- Powell described a Dec. 21, 2020, meeting at the White House that included Giuliani and Meadows during which Giuliani called her “every name in the book,” including “b----.”
- Hall claimed that his role in the alleged breach of election equipment in rural Coffee County was simply that of a “political tourist,” and that he spent $10,000 of his own money to fly there on Jan. 7, 2021, purely “for s---s and giggles.” But he also complained that no one reimbursed him for the charter flight, explaining, “Pardon my French, but I’ve been f---ed through this whole thing.”
- Hall also revealed a previously undisclosed role in alleged harassment of Ruby Freeman, a Fulton County election worker who has publicly described having to go into hiding after Giuliani and others falsely accused her of counting phony ballots. Hall said Cheeley approached him to help locate Freeman, and he surmised that he was tapped because of his skills tracking people down as a bail bondsman.
- Though she pleaded guilty in the case, Powell continued to maintain her lack of involvement in the Coffee County incident. She said she opposed the publication of the computer data because she understood the sensitivity of the material.
The statements appear to have been recorded in a courthouse conference room, with the defendants seated at the head of a table and their attorneys and the prosecution gathered around them.
The interviews with Chesebro and Powell lasted nearly three hours each, and Hall’s statement was more than two. Ellis’s interview was roughly half an hour and less free-flowing compared with the others. At several times during the recording, prosecutors cut Ellis off, saying they feared that she was about to violate attorney-client privilege. Powell and Ellis recorded their statements on Oct. 18 and Oct. 23, respectively - in both cases the day before they each pleaded guilty. Chesebro recorded his on Oct. 20, the day he pleaded guilty - and also the day jury selection was set to begin in his case.
Hall recorded his statement on Sept. 29, the day he became the first defendant to plead guilty in the Georgia case.
The four defendants pleaded guilty to a variety of lesser charges. Ellis pleaded to felony charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. Chesebro pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to file false documents. Powell and Hall pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors and five misdemeanors, respectively, involving intentional interference with the performance of election duties. All received sentences of probation and fines and were ordered to write letters of apology and testify truthfully in future proceedings.
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Adriana Usero, Michael Cadenhead and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.