Federal government asks questions about Sidney Powell and his pro-Trump group


Since Sidney Powell led one of then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, she has found herself on the wrong side of a potentially ruinous flurry of lawsuits. But the problems with the voting machine are only part of the growing problems of the notorious lawyer for MAGA.

For months, a federal investigation from Washington, DC, demanded documents and questioned potential witnesses about Powell, according to three people familiar with the matter. Likewise, a separate investigation into Powell’s undemocratic activities took place in the Sunshine State earlier this year and has already produced results and punished Powell and his far-right group.

The previously unreported federal investigation is examining the finances of Defending the Republic, an organization founded by Powell to fund his “Kraken” lawsuits to overturn the 2020 election, the sources said. According to two of those familiar with the matter, a grand jury was formed and subpoenas and requests for documents were issued to several people as late as September.

The defense of the finances of the Republic has already given rise to an investigation and a settlement with the charitable regulator of Florida. The group paid a $ 10,000 fine in September as part of a settlement agreement related to its solicitation of contributions and failure to register as a charity in the state.

Sidney Powell speaks at a press conference on election results in Alpharetta, Georgia, 2020.

Elijah Nouvelage / Reuters

In secretly taped conversations posted by former Powell ally Lin Wood over the past few days, former Overstock.com and Defending the Republic CEO Patrick Byrne accused Powell of pocketing funds from the group to pay for his defense against a billion dollar libel suit. filed against it by Dominion Voting Systems.

Neither Powell nor representatives for Defending the Republic responded to requests for comment on this story. Neither Powell nor Defending the Republic have been charged with a felony.

Powell created Defending the Republic with great fanfare in December 2020 and listed a who’s who of the pro-Trump electoral conspiracy world on his incorporation documents. The group’s board originally included Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn, his brother Joe and QAnon enthusiast Lin Wood., another lawyer linked to Trump who recently started feuding with Powell. Republic defense lawyers claim Wood was mistakenly listed as a member of the board of directors and subsequently withdrawn from the registration files.

Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, who briefly served as CEO of Defending the Republic, said he had his own concerns about the group’s finances..

In a phone call with Wood which Wood surreptitiously recorded, Byrne claimed that Byrne, Michael Flynn and Flynn’s brother Joseph Flynn left the group in April after Powell refused to allow an audit of Defense accounts. of the Republic.

“I gave her a list of things she needed to clean up and told her she needed to get a listener,” Byrne told Wood on the call.

Wood released the audio for the call last week as part of a larger feud with one-time friends like Flynn and Powell. Byrne confirmed the authenticity of the call to the daily beast.

According to Byrne, Powell received a wave of donations the day after the election after being praised by mega-popular right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh. But donations were often given at random, sometimes in the form of a dollar or quarter bill taped to a postcard addressed to Powell’s law firm. Byrne claims to have discovered that Powell had amassed a fortune in contributions, between $ 20 million and $ 30 million, but provided no evidence to support this claim. A forecast budget for Defending the Republic filed with the state of Florida lists only $ 7 million in revenue for the group.

Defending Republic funds did not go towards the pro-Trump goals donors were likely envisioning, Byrne said. Instead, he claimed they were spent to pay the legal bills for Powell, who faced disciplinary issues in court and a billion dollar libel suit from Dominion Voting Systems.

“It shouldn’t be called ‘Defending the Republic’,” Byrne said in the recording. “It should be called ‘Defending Sidney Powell’.”

Dominion attorneys have also raised questions about the finances of Defending the Republic, which the voting technology company has sued alongside Powell. In court documents filed in May, Dominion accused Powell of [Defending the Republic’s funds] to pay for his personal legal defense.

Dominion attorneys claimed in the filing that Powell began soliciting donations for Defending the Republic before formally incorporating the group. This streak, they argued, meant that donations for the group “could not have been kept separately in a bank account” and “would necessarily have been commingled into bank accounts controlled by [Powell]. “

While working as CEO of Defending the Republic, Byrne said he feared Powell was using the money for herself and potentially violated the law in the process. Byrne said he determined he incurred no legal liability himself, but was tempted to “drop a dime on” Powell and alert law enforcement.

“Sidney is just running this around like a scam,” Byrne told Wood.

The Republic’s financial defense first came to the attention of Florida regulators shortly after Powell founded the group in November 2020, when authorities received a complaint and subsequently issued a subpoena. GoDaddy Internet Hosting Service for information on the group’s website.

At a press conference in June, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Defending the Republic “solicits contributions from the State of Florida or from people in the State of Florida” on the Internet “Without filing in the state of Florida” as a charity.

On August 24, Defending the Republic paid a fine of $ 10,000 as part of a settlement agreement with authorities in Florida regarding its fundraising.

As part of the deal, Powell’s group agreed to register as a charity in Florida and submitted a budget estimate of over $ 7 million. The settlement agreement also required Defending the Republic to submit an audited financial statement for the group’s operations between December 2020 and July 2021 by November 30, including a balance sheet and a list of expenses and income.

“Our number one job is to protect Florida consumers from fraud, and I am proud of the work of our department in conducting a thorough investigation into the defense of the Republic,” Nikki Fried said in a statement provided to Daily Beast. “We are committed to holding all organizations operating as charities accountable under Florida law. It doesn’t matter who you are, big or small, whether you’re a bad actor, a con artist, or a former lawyer for a former president, the rules apply to you, and we’ll apply the law the same.

Under Fried’s tenure as Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, his department conducted high-profile investigations involving charities accused of wrongdoing. In 2019, Fried’s office investigated consumer complaints about a charity, We Build the Wall, run by Brian Kolfage and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. The investigation led to a federal indictment of Kolfage and Bannon for fraud and money laundering (Trump then pardoned Bannon).

Virtually all of Powell’s ongoing legal issues and growing spending stem directly from his dedication to Trump and his cause to cling to power despite Biden’s decisive victory in 2020. These days, the favor naturally does not run out. been made. She was once a key figure in Trump’s orbit. Now she has been abandoned and effectively banned from her properties and private clubs.

“I did not seek to contact the president in any way long before he left office,” Powell told the Daily Beast in late September. “My quest is simply the truth. The American people are fed up with the lies of the government and the media. “

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