Supporters of former President Donald Trump gave more than $14 million to a Sidney Powell-led group raising funds to dispute the 2020 presidential election results, The Washington Post reported on Monday after reviewing records from Powell’s group, Defending the Republic.
The Post’s report also reveals inner turmoil among the Defending the Republic’s leadership about how the money should be spent. The group is a target of federal prosecutors, who have subpoenaed financial records and other documents from it and a political action committee run by Powell with the same name. A source familiar with the Jan. 6 committee’s work told the paper that the panel is also interested in how much money the group brought in.
“Business is good and accountability is low, which means we’re just going to see continued use of this playbook,” former senior U.S. cybersecurity official Matt Masterson told the Post. “Well-meaning folks that have been told that the election was stolen are giving out money that they might not otherwise be able to give.”
According to public filings cited by the Post, Defending the Republic raised $14.9 million from Dec. 1, 2020, to July 31 of this year and spent over $5 million on legal fees as well as unspecified awards and grants. The group also gave than half a million dollars to the GOP-led Arizona ballot review. But, according to the paper, the group may have raised more than the paperwork suggests since Powell began raising money on Nov. 10, just a week after the election. At one point this past summer, Powell controlled some $9 million in funds.
In a statement to the Post, the group’s lawyer, Howard Kleinhendler, said: “Defending The Republic is pleased that its audited financials clearly refute and put to rest previously reported allegations of financial impropriety. Defending The Republic will continue to focus on its important work for #WeThePeople.”
But so far that work has not been successful, in that they have not secured any additional election victories for Trump. The group started to fracture in March and April, the Post reported, and a number of people resigned on April 9, including former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who served as Defending the Republic’s chief executive. Byrne said he decided to resign after Powell sent an email accusing him and others of being “panicked” and “immature” in their reaction to a filing she submitted to the court seeking to have a lawsuit dismissed that was brought against them by Dominion Voting Systems.
“The job that every American who has donated to our cause expects me to do is to get the truth out in our cases and hopefully win the litigation as I did in Flynn,” Powell wrote in the email. “I need and deserve the full team behind me on this. I MUST run the litigation. That is why I started all of this. We do not have time, money or energy to waste. Drama needs to go.”
The next day, Byrne and many others including the executive team and Powell’s former client, ex-Trump National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, resigned from the group. According to Byrne, Powell “refused all oversight and would not answer questions about” how much money the group had raised and had on hand.
Lin Wood, a Trump attorney and ally, has also accused Powell of grifting and posted a recorded call between himself and Byrne. “I’m not sure where all this money is going, but I think somebody owes to the American public a full accounting,” Wood told Byrne on the call.
Byrne said that he hadn’t spoken to Powell since April 6 and “never will again.”
“I gave her a laundry list of things she had to clean up and told her she had to get an auditor … She refused to let me look at any — well, I can’t tell you more,” he said. “But we walked out after about 17 days there … You can infer what you want from that.”