It takes a certain kind of legal mind to decide to go to work for Donald Trump. Since Trump transparently does not believe in the rule of law in any way, shape, or form, serving him in a legal capacity is a bit like taking a job as Jeffrey Dahmer’s ethicist.
Trump’s attorneys, like many of his advisers, tend to justify their positions on the grounds that they can steer a powerful man away from crazy or dangerous advisers. Attorney General William Barr was running around claiming that mail-in voting would enable foreign countries to cast massive amounts of fake ballots, that democratic norms were being shredded by Trump’s enemies and not by Trump, the mainstream media was smearing the healing properties of hydroxychloroquine, and so on. But Barr was also maneuvering to keep Trump from listening to the legal stylings of Rudy Giuliani, who is much crazier than Barr. Giuliani, in turn, was working to wall off Trump from the advice of Sidney Powell, who is crazier still.
Just how crazy is she? Jonathan Karl reports that Powell — who, at the height of her influence, appeared at an official Republican National Committee press conference as Trump counsel to make the case for Trump’s election challenge — believed the CIA director had undertaken a secret international mission to confiscate the evidence that would reveal election fraud:
“Gina Haspel has been hurt and taken into custody in Germany,” Powell told Cohen, pushing a false conspiracy theory that had been gaining steam among QAnon followers, according to the book. “You need to launch a special operations mission to get her,” Powell said.
Powell, according to the book, was pushing the outlandish claim that Haspel had been injured while on a secret CIA operation to seize an election-related computer server that belonged to a company named Scytl – none of which was true.
“The server, Powell claimed, contained evidence that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of votes had been switched using rigged voting machines. Powell believed Haspel had embarked on this secret mission to get the server and destroy the evidence – in other words, the CIA director was part of the conspiracy,” Karl writes.
Powell wanted the Defense Department to send a special operations team over to Germany immediately: “They needed to get the server and force Haspel to confess,” Karl writes.
Powell’s theory has a number of flaws. Perhaps the most glaring is her premise that the agent the CIA would select to carry out its secret mission would be the agency’s director. My understanding of the espionage world is that secret agents generally try to escape recognition. Maintaining your cover is considerably more difficult if you have appeared on television and in newspapers across the world identified as the director of the CIA.
Anyway, Powell is crazier than Giuliani, who is crazier than Barr. At some point toward the very end, things got so crazy even Barr couldn’t handle it anymore. But Barr’s grip on reality is quite tenuous. The mental-health spectrum of Trump lawyer crazy runs from Fox News Brain (Barr) to Newsmax Brain (Giuliani) to One America News Brain (Powell). Say what you will about Trump’s managerial style — his legal team has truly been a Big Tent.