Donald Trump informed the conspiracy-theory-driven MAGA attorney Sidney Powell on Monday that he does not intend to appoint her “special counsel” to investigate “election fraud,” according to two people with knowledge of the matter and another source close to the White House.
Trump had met with Powell and others in the Oval Office on Friday to discuss, among other items, the possibility of appointing her to such a position. The president has been captivated by Powell’s extreme views and anti-democratic ideas for nullifying this year’s presidential election that Joe Biden won—to the point that Powell continued to be given an audience at the White House and with Trump in the subsequent days.
But Trump has now buckled at the prospect of giving her such a formal portfolio for pursuing her conspiracy theories around voter irregularities and fraud, which include a supposed Venezuelan plot to rig the election. Asked whether Trump told Powell that she wouldn’t be “special counsel,” Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani—who leads the president’s post-election legal team—told The Daily Beast on Tuesday: “Yes,” adding, “she is no longer part of [our] team. She is on her own.”
Powell and White House spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday afternoon. President Trump, it should be noted, is notorious for changing his mind on a whim.
Powell has allies in Trumpland as she’s pushed dramatic measures to overturn the election. Chief among them is his former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn (for whom Powell was a lawyer), who has argued that the president should impose martial law to force a do-over of the election in key swing states.
Those theories led to a tense White House meeting on Friday. And various officials and advisers close to the president—including Giuliani, who is no stranger to promulgating 2020-related conspiracy theories on Trump’s behalf—have been insistent in recent conversations with Trump that Powell is making empty promises and that he should focus on other paths for overturning the election results.
These divisions have created two distinct camps within Trump’s remaining legal team, with Powell in one corner and almost everyone else in another. On Monday, outgoing Attorney General William Barr said he has no interest in appointing such a special counsel to investigate baseless allegations of a massive election-fraud conspiracy. Barr would not be needed for the president to make such an appointment of his own. But absent the sign off of the Department of Justice, that person would be operating as an adjunct White House lawyer.
Powell had been involved in prior Trump efforts to question the legitimacy of the election outcome, including in a wild press conference held at the Republican Party headquarters in D.C. But since then, the president’s team officially expelled her from the legal team and has sought distance from her. In a Newsmax interview on Monday evening, Giuliani distanced himself from Powell even further.
"Let me say definitely that Sidney Powell is not part of our legal team, she hasn't been for 5 weeks, she is not a special counsel for the president, she does not speak for the president, nor does she speak for the administration,” Giuliani told Newsmax host, and Trump’s former press secretary, Sean Spicer. “She speaks for herself."