Why did Team Trump dump Sidney Powell?

There are two possibilities. One, which is kicking around today, is that Powell’s theory of a grand conspiracy to rig the vote involving Venezuelan communists was too nutty even for Trump and Giuliani.

Which is unlikely. The president and his lawyer are not known for being overly discerning, shall we say, about the quality of information they consume, especially when that information flatters the president’s ego. If Powell claimed that Democrats are lizard people wearing skin suits who are trying to take over the planet by engineering the president’s defeat, Trump would say, “You know, Biden does look a lot different now than he did 20 years ago.”

Nonetheless, the “too crankish even for Trump” theory has its adherents.

Examiner reporter Jerry Dunleavy was told that even Trump’s team hasn’t seen the, ahem, “kraken” that she keeps promising to produce:

Sources close to the president told the Washington Examiner neither the White House nor the Trump campaign have seen any of the evidence she claims to have related to assertions about voting machines switching millions of votes from President Trump to President-elect Joe Biden. They argued that her claims overshadowed what they see as legitimate concerns about the mail-in ballot process…

A source close to the Trump family told the Washington Examiner that “Tucker isn’t the only one that has asked Sidney for evidence only to get stiff-armed by her — lawyers in the White House and on the campaign, White House advisers, and advisers to the first family have been asking and all got the same response as Tucker.” The source added, “Lots of folks were nodding and cheering when Tucker described his experience with her.”…

“Based on everything I’ve seen — which is a lot more than Sidney Powell, to say the least — there is no basis for what she is saying,” a senior national security official told the Washington Examiner. “At this point, it would be more believable that she’s a Democratic plant designed to overshadow legitimate voter fraud issues with insanity.”

You can’t con a con. A Twitter pal last night compared the layers of crankishness in the legal effort to Russian nesting dolls, where each layer disclaims the nuttiness of the layer underneath. The outside layer is the “respectable” lawyers who were leading the court battle initially, before Rudy took over and crazied it up. The next layer is Rudy himself and Jenna Ellis, who’ve now distanced themselves from the “Kraken on steroids” hysteria of Sidney Powell underneath. There’s no telling which layer lurks underneath Powell, ready to be blamed by her for straining credulity. Lin Wood, maybe?

I’d say it’s 50/50 at this point on whether she ends up accusing Giuliani, Ellis, possibly even Trump himself of being part of the communist plot to rig the election. After all, if you were willing to do anything to see Democrats in charge of the United States, you might offer the sitting president a secret yet exorbitant cash bribe to tank the race. Like, say, by not even pretending to care about COVID in his public remarks. Or not doing anything meaningful to deliver a new round of stimulus relief in time for Election Day.

The flaw in the “too crankish even for Trump” theory is that the president himself had been tweeting a bunch about Dominion voting systems, the company at the heart of Powell’s grand conspiracy. WaPo reported a week ago that he was “personally obsessed” with the claims involving Dominion. In all the reporting about him over the past five years, I can’t remember a single instant when a crony ran afoul of him by being too zealous in telling him what he wanted to hear. The far, far more likely reason why Powell was booted is that she went too far for Senate Republicans, not for Trump — specifically, by demagoging the upcoming Senate races in Georgia:

The whole reason Senate GOPers are biting their tongues about Trump’s attempt to overturn the election is that they’re trying to keep the base onside in Georgia. They’re stuck between two constituencies they’re trying to appease, the Trump fans who want to believe that the election was rigged and the suburbanites who voted for Biden in the general election but might be willing to come back to the party provided it doesn’t seem too crazy. Powell was alienating both groups. Tying Trump’s legal effort to a conspiracy theory that somehow involved Hugo Chavez was a WTF moment for everyone outside the most activist parts of the populist base, including suburbanites. But accusing Brian Kemp, Brad Raffensperger, and even Kelly Loeffler — who’s on the ballot on January 5 — of being involved was destined to torch populist support for turning out on January 5 by convincing MAGA fans that the fix was in and that voting is pointless. Remember, Lin Wood is already openly calling for Republican voters in the state to boycott the runoffs in protest:


I can absolutely believe that Mitch McConnell and his caucus would let the country burn if they knew that it would lead somehow to a more Republican Senate. But letting the country burn knowing it might mean a *less* Republican Senate? They won’t stand for that. Once Powell started attacking Republicans in Georgia, vowing that it’s “going to be the first state I’m going to blow up and Mr Kemp and the secretary of state need to go with it,” the risk that she would cost the party control of the Senate became a five-alarm fire. I’d guess there was a lot of chatter between Trump and party leaders, possibly including McConnell, over the weekend about solving their “Powell problem” in Georgia ASAP. So the president solved it.

Sort of. Powell’s still going to be out there ranting about the Kraken, which explains why influencers like Don Jr now have to counterprogram her:

She’s Frankenstein wrecking the lab. It’d be just desserts for the establishment GOP after quietly enabling Trump’s coup attempt if Powell ended up costing them the Senate by depressing turnout with conspiratorial insanity.

Exit question: Was she ever technically part of Trump’s legal team? Yesterday’s statement from Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said Powell “is” practicing law on her own and “is not” a lawyer for Trump. But was she? She was at the press conference last week, of course, and the president identified her as a member of the team nine days ago. But yesterday Powell herself emphasized that she never signed a retainer or billed Trump for any services. The answer of whether she was ever his attorney is kind of important potentially…