Discover more from Bernard Goldberg's Commentary
Legal Justice is Catching Up With the "Stop the Steal" Fraud
Sidney Powell's guilty plea is particularly significant.
Some of the most heated comment-section arguments I ever got into on this website fell between the night Donald Trump lost the last presidential election (November 3, 2020) and the day he left office (January 20, 2021). I remember becoming so thoroughly disgusted with a number of longtime readers over those few weeks that I didn’t hold back on the keyboard, tearing into self-described conservatives who’d bought wholesale into the telegraphed and transparently bogus narrative that Trump had actually won. I had even less patience for those whose instinct on January 6 was to rationalize the Capitol violence we all watched play out on television.
It’s not that I was naive up until that point as to how deeply Trumpism had infected the character and soul of so many once reasonable people, but I guess I was hoping that atrocities like a U.S. president refusing to concede his electoral loss, and provoking a deadly insurrection that denied our country of its peaceful transfer of power, would finally shake some of these folks awake… or at least compel them to reevaluate some things.
But that didn’t happen. Like lots of other Trump-era depravities, these acts were dismissed, memory-holed, or shaped through ridiculous conspiracy theories into what are now widely-accepted alternate realities on the political right.
We’re reminded often that our politics remain perverse and resistant to real accountability, but thankfully our legal system has been serving justice to a lot of bad actors from that contentious time, including Jan. 6 rioters, and public officials and lawyers who crossed legal lines in their attempts to overturn U.S. democracy.
One of those lawyers, Sidney Powell, plead guilty last Thursday to illegally conspiring to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. She was sentenced to six years probation, a $6,000 fine, and $2,700 in restitution to the Secretary of State’s Office. She must also submit a letter of apology to the citizens of Georgia, and is required to testify under oath against her co-defendants. One of those co-defendants, you may recall, is her former client, Donald Trump.
Powell became a well-recognized public figure in the weeks following the 2020 election, as she, on Trump’s behalf, made a number of appearances where she pushed one outlandish “election fraud” conspiracy theory after another. It should have been clear to any rational person at the time that for whatever strong reputation Powell once had as an attorney, she had — similarly to Rudy Giuliani — lost her freakin’ mind.
I mean, implicating the ghost of Hugo Chavez as part of a U.S. election-fraud charge seven years after the Venezuelan dictator had died was pretty wacky stuff. Yet, her words were accepted as truth and deemed righteous by millions of desperate Trump followers… including individuals on this website who I had long been familiar with, and once knew to be normal.
It was depressing.
After hearing the news of Powell’s conviction, I did a quick search on some of those old comment-section exchanges, to be reminded of just how delusional the Powell acolytes were. Even now, they’re shocking to read:
Again, that dude (who I just discovered through Substack still reads my columns religiously) was once sane and totally reasonable. I kid you not.
But insanity sells, and Powell, at the time, was great for ratings. That’s why she became a popular guest over those weeks on right-wing media outlets, including Fox News, where she continued to spew her nonsense that included the outrageous claim that election-tech companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic had conspired to change the results of the election. That claim later earned her and the networks that featured her enormous defamation lawsuits by those companies.
I’m delighted that Powell was convicted, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her co-defendants held legally accountable. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but in the case of the anti-democratic “stop the steal” unlawfulness, they are indeed turning.
Still, as Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s Secretary of State’s Chief Operations Office, told a local news network, the damage Powell caused will last for a long time.
What Powell did not only “undermined people’s faith in elections but undermined people’s faith in each other,” said Sterling. “There are families ripped apart by this. I don’t know how you measure that.”
Her actions also contributed to numerous election officials and other public servants (and their families) being harassed and even threatened with violence and death, and they assuredly added to the fire that engulfed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
That’s a very dark legacy to have, and who knows if Powell feels one bit bad about what all she did, or if those who were so eager to be duped by her have learned a damn thing from the experience.
Regardless, the legal system brought justice for her actions, and that’s a good thing for society.