“That’s game over”: Legal experts say new Jenna Ellis revelation is beyond “devastating” for Trump

Jenna Ellis John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images
Jenna Ellis John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis told prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., that a senior aide to the former president told her he was “not going to leave” the White House even after losing numerous legal challenges.

Ellis in a video of a confidential proffer session with prosecutors obtained by ABC News and The Washington Post said that Trump aide Dan Scavino told her “the boss” would refuse to leave the White House even though she told him that their cause was “essentially over.”

"And he said to me, in a kind of excited tone, 'Well, we don't care, and we're not going to leave,'" Ellis recalled. "And I said, 'What do you mean?' And he said 'Well, the boss', meaning President Trump — and everyone understood 'the boss,' that's what we all called him — he said, 'The boss is not going to leave under any circumstances. We are just going to stay in power.'"

Ellis added: "And I said to him, 'Well, it doesn't quite work that way, you realize?' and he said, 'We don't care.'"

Ellis also told prosecutors that Scavino’s statement "indicated to me that he was serious and that was in furtherance of something that he had discussed with the boss."

New York University Law Prof. Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel for the Pentagon, told CNN that Ellis’ revelation could be key evidence in the Fulton case as well as Trump’s federal election subversion case in D.C.

"She's adding something that's golden evidence for prosecutors both in Georgia and in DC, which is, they don't have to prove this but if they can show that Trump knew he lost and was still trying to hold on to power, that's it,” he said. “That's game over. And that's exactly what she says is the context of the conversation."

Gwen Keyes, a former DeKalb County, Ga., district attorney, told MSNBC that Ellis’ testimony may be key to the Fulton case.

"That is a key element of every one of the crimes that is listed in the indictment," she said. "That being that the defendants knew that they were perpetrating a lie, and so this goes right to the heart of that."

Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, who was also on the segment, pointed out that the conversation between Ellis and Scavino took place after the safe harbor deadline to resolve state disputes, after state electors met to cast their vote and after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s legal challenge.

"You might remember, that Jenna Ellis testified before the Jan. 6 Committee, that at a holiday party, Donald Trump said to Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, 'I don't want people to know that we lost. It's embarrassing, figure it out. We need to figure it out.' So, all of this together paints a really damaging picture for Donald Trump,” he said.

Fellow former TrumpWorld attorney Sidney Powell told prosecutors in her proffer session that she knew nothing about election law when she sought to challenge Trump’s loss.

"Did I know anything about election law? No. 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,” she told prosecutors.

Though Trump has denied that Powell was ever his attorney, Powell described being in close contact with him and said he frequently called her for updates on the legal efforts, even after his campaign publicly distanced from her.

"He always wanted to know where things were in terms of finding fraud that would change the results of the election,” she said.

Powell also confirmed reporting that Trump was “willing to appoint me a special counsel” to investigate fraud and seize voting machines, though the effort fell through.

"I called Mark Meadows the next morning just to run it to ground, and said, 'Hey, when can I come pick up my badge and my key?'" Powell said. "He essentially laughed — I mean he said, you know, 'It's not going to happen.'"

Powell said she was present when multiple advisers told Trump that he lost and prosecutors questioned why the president followed her advice instead of the others.

"Because I didn't think he had lost," Powell replied, later adding: "I saw an avenue pursuant to which, if I was right, he would remain president."

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

National security attorney Bradley Moss said the revelations from Ellis and Powell were “devastating.”

“Trump never had any intention of complying with the election results. He was told repeatedly in the presence of a convicted co-defendant that he had lost. He ignored it and conspired with his lawyers to overthrow the election anyway,” he tweeted.

“Devastating is an understatement,” agreed former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman, adding: “The series of revelations from the video interviews of the Defendants to pleaded guilty in Fulton County really serves to validate Willis’s strategy of charging broadly then giving pleas. The testimony is just overwhelming.”

Trump attorney Steve Sadow in a statement to ABC News called the “purported private conversation” described by Ellis “absolutely meaningless.”

"The only salient fact to this nonsense line of inquiry is that President Trump left the White House on January 20, 2021, and returned to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida," Sadow said. "If 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."