Fulton County DA asks for protective order after leak of witness videos in Trump election interference case

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s office is seeking an emergency protective order after portions of videos from key witnesses in her election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others were leaked to two news outlets.

“The release of these confidential video recordings is clearly intended to intimidate witnesses in this case, subjecting them to harassment and threats prior to trial,” the DA’s office said in a court filing Tuesday after portions of the videotaped statements of lawyers Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro and bail bondsman Scott Hall were made public.

The four were among the original 19 defendants charged in the racketeering case in August and have all pleaded guilty to related charges. The footage, known as proffer videos, was made pursuant to the defendants’ plea agreements, which required that they provide true and accurate information to prosecutors.

Judge Scott McAfee scheduled a hearing on the emergency motion for Wednesday.

The Ellis and Powell statements were first reported by ABC News, while the Chesebro and Hall statements were first reported by the Washington Post. The recordings, which have not been independently obtained by NBC News, shed new light on the scope of what they told prosecutors.

Chesebro told them about a previously unreported White House meeting where he said he briefed then-President Trump on election challenges in Arizona and they discussed the “alternate electors” scheme.

Powell testified that Trump was repeatedly told by others that he’d lost the election, which is the main reason he repeatedly conferred with her, because she thought he won.

“Did I know anything about election law? No,” Powell told prosecutors, according to ABC News. “But I understand fraud from having been a prosecutor for 10 years, and knew generally what the fraud suit should be if the evidence showed what I thought it showed.”

Ellis recounted Trump senior adviser Dan Scavino telling her in December that Trump didn’t care about the election results, with Scavino adding, “We’re not going to leave” the White House.

Trump’s lawyer Steve Sadow brushed off the recordings in a statement to NBC News. “Any purported private conversation is absolutely meaningless. The only salient and telling fact is that President Trump left the White House on January 20, 2021 and returned to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. If this is the nonsense line of inquiry being pursued and this is the type of bogus, ridiculous ‘evidence’ DA Willis intends to rely upon, it is one more reason that this political, travesty of a case must be dismissed,” Sadow said.

Hall, who was the first to plead guilty in the case, disclosed information about his involvement in an alleged scheme to pressure election worker Ruby Freeman to make false statements.

In its filing Tuesday, the DA’s office said an attorney for Harrison Floyd, another person charged in the Freeman scheme, initially copped to being the person responsible for the leak. After another defense attorney had asked prosecutors whether they were responsible for the leak in a group email, Floyd’s attorney responded, “It was Harrison Floyd’s team.” The lawyer then sent a follow-up saying that was a “typo.”

Floyd’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chesebro attorney Scott Grubman said he did not know the source of the videos. Lawyers for Ellis and Powell declined to comment, while Hall’s attorney did not immediately respond.

The DA’s office noted that it asked for a protective order in September barring public disclosure of the information it was turning over to the defendant. The judge has yet to sign off on it, but the DA’s office suggested the leaker could still face legal ramifications for violating that order.

The leak “constitutes indirect communication about the facts of this case with codefendants and witnesses, and obstructs the administration of justice, in violation of the conditions of release imposed on each defendant,” the DA’s office said.

The office said in the filing that going forward it “will not produce copies of confidential video recordings of proffers to any defendant to prevent further public disclosure. Instead, defendants must come to the District Attorney’s Office to view confidential video recordings of proffers. They may take notes, but they will be prohibited from creating any recordings or reproductions.”

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