Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis’ ability to obtain plea deals from three lawyers aligned with former President Donald Trump — Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis — in the space of a week could prove beneficial for special counsel Jack Smith, the New York Times reports. Willis is prosecuting Trump for seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, indicting 18 co-defendants as well as the former president. Smith brought a streamlined case against Mr. Trump in accusing him of trying to subvert democracy — with the goal of moving the case rapidly to trial in a presidential election year. Contact between Willis and Smith has been fairly minimal, but the recent plea deals could change that dynamic, even though Willis’s team continues to privately stress their prosecutorial independence.
The plea agreements, and the prospect that even more of Trump’s co-defendants will cut deals, have made it nearly impossible to determine when the trial in the Georgia case will begin, and have increased overall uncertainty about both cases. Any publicly released documents or statements in all of the cases — including court appearances by the Fulton County defendants — can be admissible as evidence in the federal trial. It remains unlikely that Mr. Trump’s Georgia trial would take place before the federal case. The best-case scenario for Mr. Smith is that Fulton County prosecutors will simply hand over interview transcripts to the government, said Darryl K. Brown, a University of Virginia law professor. If that happens, the special counsel’s office could then subpoena the defendants, or other witnesses, and ask them under oath if what they said previously was truthful. However, if Smith were to subpoena Chesebro, Powell and Ellis as witnesses against Trump, they could refuse to testify by exercising their Fifth Amendment rights.