After Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by more than 7 million votes in the 2020 presidential election, attorney Sidney Powell and the Oath Keepers used different methods in an unsuccessful effort to help Trump steal the election. Powell abused the legal system; members of the Oath Keepers, according to U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors, physically attacked the U.S. Capitol Building. Now, the Washington Post is reporting that the DOJ is "asking a federal judge to probe possible financial relationships between" Oath Keepers members and Powell's nonprofit Defending the Republic.
The DOJ's request, according to Washington Post reporters Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, "follows media reports that" Defending the Republic "has used some of the millions of dollars it has raised through spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 election to pay legal fees for Oath Keepers members facing trial." BuzzFeed and Mother Jones have reported that four of the Oath Keepers members facing charges in connection with the January 6, 2021 insurrection, including founder Stewart Rhodes, have taken money from Defending the Republic.
In a filing on Wednesday, June 22, DOJ prosecutors wrote, "The government is.... protecting the record by involving the Court in the process of addressing a potential conflict before it undermines a proceeding and a defendant's right to competent and conflict-free representation."
The four Oath Keepers members who reportedly took funds from Defending the Republic are facing federal charges for obstructing a government proceeding — Congress' counting of electoral votes on January 6, 2021 — and three of them, including Rhodes, are also facing seditious conspiracy charges.
Weiner and Hsu report, "U.S. prosecutors asked the trial judge to ensure, in private if necessary, that counsel is complying with legal ethics that bar outside funding for legal defense unless the client gives informed consent. The rules prohibit attorneys from sharing confidential client information with outsiders except under certain circumstances. The government also is asking the judge to ensure that the involvement of Powell's group results in 'no interference with the lawyer's independence.... or with the client-lawyer relationship.'"
According to the Post reporters, federal DOJ prosecutors "expressed concern that Defending the Republic was discouraging plea deals, saying that could be against the interest of a particular defendant."
"Before making its filing," Weiner and Hsu explain, "the Justice Department queried private lawyers representing ten members of the Oath Keepers. According to the court record, attorneys for four of the defendants said they were not taking any money from Defending the Republic. Attorneys for another three said they were in compliance with the rules but would not say whether they took money from Powell's group. Attorneys for two defendants did not respond; one declined, saying he would answer any questions asked by the judge."
Powell has had legal problems of her own, although they have been civil rather than criminal. Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Powell for making the false claim that its voting machines were used to steal votes from Trump in the 2020 presidential election and give them to Biden; Powell also claimed that Dominion's equipment was used to help the late Hugo Chavez steal votes in Venezuela — which, Dominion said in response, would have been physically impossible because its equipment was never even used in that South American country.
In a $1.3 billion lawsuit filed against Powell in January 2021 — a lawsuit that named Defending the Republic — Dominion lambasted Powell for waging a "viral disinformation campaign" that included "demonstrably false" claims.