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Fulton County judge indicates he’ll issue protective order in Trump case after confidential video disclosure

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(ATLANTA) — Lawyers Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis agreed to cooperate with Georgia prosecutors last month.
Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee indicated that he is inclined to issue a protective order in the election interference case against Donald Trump and others, based on a request from District Attorney Fani Willis’ office following the publication of confidential proffer interview videos by ABC News and other outlets.

ABC News was first to report on portions of videos exclusively obtained showing Fulton County prosecutors confidentially interviewing two attorneys, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, who helped Trump try to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.

“On November 13, 2023, confidential video recordings of proffers conducted by the State with certain witnesses pursuant to guilty plea agreements were published by ABC News and other media outlets,” the Tuesday filing from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the state and nearly all defendants in the case agreed to to a proposal under which the DA’s office would designate which discovery material they consider sensitive and give defendants an opportunity to challenge that. Material designated as sensitive would then fall under a protective order to keep it from being made public.

“Everything that we’ve turned over, we believe were prepared to go through it to say what’s sensitive and what’s not,” special prosecutor Nathan Wade told the judge.

An attorney for co-defendant Harrison Floyd said that his client opposed a protective order entirely. An attorney representing multiple media outlets, not including ABC News, argued against a protective order in the case, saying the standard for such an order had not been met.

Still, Judge McAfee indicated he would issue some sort of protective order, saying that it would “mitigate” any issues surrounding the potential jury pool and keep the discovery process flowing.

Ellis and Powell were originally indicted alongside Trump and 16 others this summer on charges they worked to overturn the state’s election results. Both later took plea deals, allowing them to plead guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their cooperation. The Washington Post later reported on those proffer videos in addition to videos of two other defendants who also took deals, Kenneth Chesebro and Scott Hall.

In her proffer interview, Ellis told prosecutors she was informed at a 2020 White House Christmas party by one of Trump’s top aids, Dan Scavino, that Trump “is not going to leave under any circumstances.”

“And he said to me, in a kind of excited tone, ‘Well, we don’t care, and we’re not going to leave,"” Ellis said of the alleged Dec. 19 conversation with Scavino. “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 said she told him, “‘Well, it doesn’t quite work that way, you realize?’ and he said, ‘We don’t care."”

The videos obtained by ABC News do not appear to depict Ellis and Powell’s full proffer sessions, but rather appear to be excerpts that total nearly an hour and a half.

A spokesperson for the Fulton County District Attorney did not respond to a request for comment on ABC News’ story. Attorneys for Ellis and Powell declined to comment when reached by ABC News. Scavino also did not respond to a request for comment.

State attorneys denied any involvement in the release of the videos and said the material had been turned over to the numerous defendants in the case as part of the discovery process. They said they would no longer hand out copies of the videos, and would instead offer viewings in their office.

The state further claimed the release was “clearly intended to intimidate witnesses in this case, subjecting them to harassment and threats prior to trial.”

The state had originally asked for a protective order in September, though it was never ruled on.

Also Tuesday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said “there will be a trial” in her criminal case against Trump that will likely last “many months,” predicting it won’t wrap until “the winter or very early 2025.”

That timeline for a trial would mean it could be underway in the heat of the 2024 presidential election.

“I believe in that case there will be a trial. I believe the trial will take many months. And I don’t expect that we will conclude until the winter or very early part of 2025,” she said during a live televised interview as part of The Washington Post’s Global Women’s Summit in Washington, D.C.

In a separate motion filed on Wednesday, the Fulton County DA’s office requested that Floyd’s bond be revoked, alleging that he repeatedly violated the conditions of his bail, including by engaging in “a pattern of intimidation” toward known co-defendants and witnesses.

In the filing, the DA pointed to multiple tweets and a podcast interview Floyd gave in which he mentions other defendants and witnesses in the case — including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and former election worker Ruby Freeman — which the DA said “constituted an act to intimidate known witnesses and direct communication with known witnesses about the facts of the case.”

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