US President Donald Trump has taken the extraordinary step of distancing himself from one of the top lawyers trying to keep him in power.
The move comes as Mr Trump’s campaign makes ever more outlandish claims of voter fraud, just as remaining legal avenues for him to remain in office get choked off.
On Sunday (US time), the Trump team effectively dumped Sidney Powell. The lawyer had been one of the most high-profile of the President’s supporters and also the most willing to posit bizarre theories as to why the election had been lost including that a long dead dictator had rigged voting machines.
According to the Washington Post, one campaign official said “she was too crazy even for the President”.
A Trump campaign statement said Ms Powell was “on her own”. She replied that she “understood” the statement but would carry on the legal campaign regardless.
The campaign’s attempt to minimise Ms Powell’s role is in stark contrast to their embrace of her just days ago when Mr Trump himself cited her as part of his “team” spearheading the “legal effort” around the elections.
On Thursday, Ms Powell appeared at press conference alongside Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and legal adviser Jenna Ellis. Ms Ellis had said Ms Powell was part of the “elite, strike force team”.
“ON HER OWN”
However, Ms Powell appeared to have crossed a line on Saturday when she claimed that Mr Trump lost the state of Georgia in the presidential election because Republican Governor Brian Kemp – an ally of Mr Trump – was in cahoots with Venezuela and had been bribed to flip votes to Joe Biden.
That prompted the former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, one of the most high-profile politicians to first back Mr Trump during his initial election bid, to berate Ms Powell.
“Sidney Powell accusing Governor Brian Kemp of a crime on television yet being unwilling to go on TV and defend and lay out the evidence that she supposedly has, this is outrageous conduct,” he said on Sunday.
A bizarre statement on Sunday from Mr Giuliani and Ms Ellis said Ms Powell had nothing officially to do with the election court cases despite her constant presence alongside both of them.
“Sidney Powell is practising law on her own.” the statement read.
“She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”
POWELL’S BIZARRE CLAIMS
On Thursday, Ms Powell had laid out an eye opening conspiracy about why the election was lost that included intervention by the late dictator of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013.
“The Dominion Voting Systems, the Smartmatic technology software, and the software that goes in other computerised voting systems here as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” she said.
It should be noted Dominion and Smartmatic are completely separate companies. The latter firm was founded in Florida by two Venezuelans. However, Smartmatic machines were used in one non-swing county and there is no known link between it and rival company Dominion.
Ms Powell has also linked the alleged election fraud to billionaire George Soros who is a favourite target of conspiracy theorists.
Evidence of all the allegations was scant if it was there at all.
Ms Powell is a well known conservative lawyer who began practising in her native Texas. Her profile rose when she took on the case of Micheal Flynn, a Trump aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with Russia.
She had played a central role in Mr Trump’s efforts to get hundreds of thousands of votes nullified in big cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit that plumped for Mr Biden. But the legal strategy has failed to produce any big changes to the tallied results.
She received the nickname the “Kraken,” a huge mythical sea creature, after she vowed to “release the Kraken” of evidence to back up her claims.
However, that has yet to occur.
On Sunday, Ms Powell released a statement to US TV station CBS about her dumping but where she embraced the “Kraken” name.
“I understand today’s press release. I will continue to represent #WeThePeople who had their votes for Trump and other Republicans stolen by massive fraud though Dominion and Smartmatic, and we will be filing suit soon,” she said.
“The chips will fall where they may and we will defend the foundations of this great Republic. #KrakenOnSteroids”
Tucker Carlson, a Fox News commentator who has long been a supporter of Mr Trump, laid into Ms Powell last week, berating her for making big claims about election fraud but not backing them up with any proof.
“We took Sidney Powell seriously, with no intention of fighting with her. We’ve always respected her work and we simply wanted to see the details,” he said.
“But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of polite requests. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her.
“When we checked with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they also told us Powell had never given them any evidence to prove anything she claimed at the press conference.”
Ms Powell’s comments are not the only questionable ones raised by Mr Trump’s team. Ms Ellis tweeted last week that Republican led states could potentially ignore the election results and appoint Trump supporting electors to vote in the Electoral College which is due to meet next month to formally install Mr Biden as President-Elect.
That hasn’t happened since the 18th century.
US District Judge Matthew Brann said the campaign and two individual voters who brought the case had asked “this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters” when it asked for a delay in votes being certified.
“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens,” Judge Brann said in his 37 page opinion of the case.
“That has not happened,” he added, saying arguments in the case had been “haphazardly stitched together … like Frankenstein’s monster”.