Fani Willis Has Notched 3 Guilty Pleas And She Ain’t Done Yet

INSIDE: Donald Trump ... Tanya Chutkan ... Aileen Cannon
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 20: Kenneth Chesebro speaks to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee during a hearing where Chesebro accepted a plea deal from the Fulton County District Atorney at the Fulton Cou... ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 20: Kenneth Chesebro speaks to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee during a hearing where Chesebro accepted a plea deal from the Fulton County District Atorney at the Fulton County Courthouse October 20, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Chesebro was facing seven charges related to his alleged role as the legal architect in using Trump electors in Georgia and other key states to undermine the 2020 elections. (Photo by Alyssa Pointer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

No Trial Today In Georgia

In an alternate universe, jury selection in the Georgia RICO trial of Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro would be starting today, and we’d be facing down a trial stretching out ahead of us for many weeks. What a difference a few plea deals make. Powell pleaded guilty Thursday, and Chesebro did so on Friday.

The Georgia case against the remaining 16 defendants (19 original defendants minus three guilty pleas) returns to a brisk but not insane pace. There is still no trial date set, but substantive motions are due by Dec. 1.

Chesebro Flips!

A key architect of the fake electors plot has now admitted to criming. Kenneth Chesebro’s plea agreement Friday in the Georgia RICO case is at least as big as Sidney Powell’s the day before. Now two attorneys involved in Trump’s post-election scheming have pleaded guilty. Unlike Powell, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, Chesebro pleaded guilty to a felony.

Here’s the rundown:

  • Chesebro pleaded guilty to a single felony count of conspiracy to file false documents.
  • Chesebro was sentenced to five years of probation, required to perform 100 hours of community service, ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution, and write a letter of apology to the people of Georgia. If he completes probation without incident, his conviction will be expunged under Georgia law.
  • Chesebro is cooperating with DA Fani Willis, but it’s not clear how helpful he’ll be to her (see below).

Should Trump Be Worried About Chesebro?

I don’t know how much stock to put in what Chesebro defense attorney Scott Grubman has been saying since the plea deal, but it’s worth noting:

  • Should Trump worry? “I don’t think so.” 
  • Did Chesebro implicate others? “He did not implicate anyone else. He implicated himself in that particular charge.”
  • Is Chesebro a snitch? “He didn’t snitch against anyone. He went in there. He accepted responsibility.”
  • Will Chesebro testify in the Georgia RICO case? “That doesn’t mean that they’re going to call him and I don’t think that’s anywhere near certainty. And in fact, quite frankly, I would be somewhat surprised if they did [call him].”
  • Could Chesebro’s testimony be helpful to other defendants? “He is required to testify truthfully if he is called by the state, and Mr. Chesebro is a man of his word. At the same time I will say, if he is called by a defendant he will testify and testify truthfully.”

What Impact Does Chesebro’s Plea Have on Jack Smith?

TPM’s Josh Kovensky revisits the Jan. 6 indictment of Donald Trump in DC to see what it says about Chesebro, a.k.a. “Co-conspirator 5.”

Chutkan Pauses Her Own Limited Gag Order

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan paused her limited gag order against former President Trump to give the parties time to brief her on whether she should stay the order while Trump appeals it.

In the meantime, Trump is seizing on the pause to resume attacking Special Counsel Jack Smith.

Good Read

NYT: A President, a Billionaire and Questions About Access and National Security

Aileen Cannon Runs A Loose Ship

After all that, the resumption of the hearing Friday on defense attorney conflicts of interest in the Mar-a-Lago case ended up being remarkable for its lack of remarkableness.

The suspense and tension largely evaporated when Walt Nauta defense counsel Stan Woodward conceded he would not cross examine witnesses at trial who were his current or former clients, or impugn them in closing arguments. That mitigates the conflicts of interest Special Counsel Jack Smith first raised – but it highlights how Cannon got played in the first place.

In addition, Nauta waived the conflicts of interest and agreed to proceed with Woodward as his attorney. That means a missed chance for Smith of flipping Nauta against Trump, but Cannon made clear that it also means Nauta can’t raise these conflicts on appeal.

What’s the upshot of all this? Two key blunders by Cannon:

  • Her dilatory handling of the conflicts of interest issue wasted time and resources and probably gives Trump another data point to argue for pushing back the trial date.
  • Her failure to facilitate Nauta conferring with independent outside counsel (in contrast to what a federal judge in DC did in the same case with a different figure in the case) about the conflicts Woodward has prevented Nauta from getting a come to Jesus talk that might have shaken his resolve.

Trump Loses Round In Colorado Disqualification Clause Case

A state judge rejected efforts by Donald Trump and the Republican Party to throw out the pending Disqualification Clause case seeking to declare him ineligible for the 2024 ballot because of his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.

Graves Threats

The U.S. attorney for DC, who has overseen the prosecutions of the Jan. 6 rioters, says the threats against his office have become “pervasive.”


In Friday’s Morning Memo, I mischaracterized the outcome of the Michigan case against a Trump fake elector. All charges were dropped against James Renner in return for his cooperation. Renner did not make any admission of guilt. The error was mine.

‘This Is George Santos’

 NYT: George Santos Swore He’d Never Talk to Me. Then the Phone Rang.

Jim Jordan Is Out But The House GOP Is Still Stuck

Jim Jordan went down hard Friday, failing in a third vote for speaker in the morning and his status as speaker designee being revoked by the House GOP in the afternoon.

What happens next is truly anyone’s guess.

The nine speaker wanna-bes in the House GOP will make a case for themselves in a candidate forum scheduled for this evening, with another round of internal GOP voting for speaker expected Tuesday. Of the nine, only two voted to certify the 2020 election.

I’m seeing some risk of the coverage devolving into a horse race style story, but keep in mind:

  • The same systemic and structural problems that hamstrung McCarthy, Scalise and Jordan (and the previous two GOP speakers) remain.
  • A hair-trigger motion to vacate still threatens to hang over any GOP speaker.
  • None of the nine candidates is such a major player or possesses a power center to shift the underlying dynamics in the conference.

One possible outcome: none of the nine wins, and an exhausted House GOP elevates Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) from speaker pro tempore to speaker.

Israel-Gaza Watch

  • Israeli strikes in Gaza continued at an intense pace, with the unconfirmed death toll on the Palestinian side rising to 4,651.
  • Limited humanitarian aid is making its way into Gaza.
  • Israel raises its estimate of hostages held by Hamas to 222.
  • The Biden administration is pressing Israel to delay its expected ground invasion of Gaza.
  • Politico: An unsanctioned coterie of pro-Israel quasi-lobbyists has descended on D.C.
  • NYT publishes editor’s note critical of its own coverage of the Gaza hospital blast.
  • WSJ: Video Analysis Shows Gaza Hospital Hit By Failed Rocket Meant for Israel

SCOTUS Takes Up Major Social Media Case

The Supreme Court has blocked the overreaching lower court injunction that barred some federal agencies from jawboning social media companies about disinformation on their platforms and agreed to take up the case out of Louisiana on an expedited basis this term.

2024 Ephemera

  • NBC News: Some Muslim Americans in Michigan feel betrayed by President Biden
  • Politico: Biden’s Arab-American boosters begin to leave his side
  • Liz Cheney: Donald Trump is “the single most dangerous threat we face”:

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