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Jenna Ellis's long, strange trip to disgrace
In court, she's contrite. On social media? Not so much.
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On November 19, 2020, Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis stood on the stage at the RNC flanked by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell and vowed that “an elite strikeforce team” would soon produce evidence of massive vote fraud and reverse Joe Biden’s apparent electoral victory.
Ellis described herself as the campaign’s “Senior Legal Advisor,” although in practice she was mostly a MAGA mean girl, doing Fox hits and tossing out online vitriol, such as accusing conservative pollster Frank Luntz of having a micro-penis, interspersed with sanctimonious bible quotes.
Unlike Giuliani and Powell, she’d never been a federal prosecutor, or even tried a case in federal court. But she did have a decade’s worth of “fake it ‘til you make it” experience, and so Ellis gamely presented herself as part of a team of crackerjack litigators prepared to march into court and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the election had been stolen.
That never happened, of course, and Ellis’s promises were mostly forgotten — Rudy’s leaky scalp and Sidney’s deranged monologue about Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez stole the show. But for Ellis, it marked the beginning of a long, strange trip which ended Tuesday when she pled guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements in Fulton County Superior Court.
Who is Jenna Ellis?
Ellis’s first job as a lawyer was as a deputy district attorney in Weld County, Colorado, where she spent most of her time in traffic court. After six months she was fired “because she refused to bring a case to trial that she believed was an unethical prosecution.” Or at least that’s what she told the Wall Street Journal. The Colorado Sun reported that she was axed for “unsatisfactory performance” and then successfully won an unemployment claim because the hearing examiner determined that she was too incompetent to be fired for cause.
While acknowledging that Ellis had been terminated “because she failed to meet the employer's expectations 100 percent of the time,” the officer found that Ellis had only “committed an irreparable egregious act” in a small portion of her cases and was “performing the duties to the best of her ability” given the “deficiencies in her education and experience.”
Ellis bounced around a bit after that, including a six-month stint at a discovery processing company which had a contract with the State Department. As the Journal notes, Ellis appears to have retconned this in her bio to “an attorney for the US Department of State.”
She then spent a few years as a pre-law advisor to undergrads at a Christian college and self-published a couple books on the evils of homosexuality, only to emerge as a columnist for the Washington Examiner, where she described herself as a “professor of constitutional law.”
Then it was on to gigs at rightwing Christian outfits, including James Dobson’s Family Institute and the Thomas More Society, which got her booked for conservative media hits. In 2016, Ellis called Trump “insanely dangerous” and “one of the greatest threats to our liberty.” But by 2019, she was singing a different tune, and, after hearing her on Fox, Trump decided he liked the sound of it. In 2019, she joined the campaign where she was once again rechristened, this time as “Dr.” Jenna Ellis, “constitutional law attorney.”
All of which is a long way of saying that Ellis was wholly unequipped to contribute to Trump’s legal strategy, but eminently qualified to toddle along behind Rudy parroting his insane election lies. Which is more or less exactly what she did.
The big lie
After Trump’s election loss, Ellis and Giuliani appeared at public hearings in Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, where they made wild claims about election fraud and pressured legislators to reconvene and steal Biden’s electoral votes for Trump.
So far, they’ve faced no consequences for that, but they made the mistake of running the same play in Georgia on December 3, 2020, appearing before members of the state Senate to urge them to claw back Biden’s electoral votes based on a bunch of concocted statistics.
They claimed that at least 96,600 mail-in ballots were counted in the 2020 presidential election with “no record of those ballots having been returned to a county elections office.” They said that 66,248 underage people voted illegally. They stated as fact that 1,043 people registered at P.O. boxes had cast their ballots in violation of state law. The real number for all of these was zero.
They also repeated the scurrilous lie about Atlanta poll workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss counting thousands of fraudulent ballots on election night after sending poll observers home.
But in Georgia, it’s a felony to solicit public officers to violate their oath. So when Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis dropped the indictment, Ellis and Giuliani found themselves charged under O.C.G.A. §§ 16-4-7 and 16-10-1.
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The indictment also notes that Ellis, the “constitutional law attorney,” drafted two legal memos in support of the plot to substitute fake electors for the real ones. Clocking in at a whopping three pages together, these documents manage to be both highly derivative of and much dumber than the memos drafted by attorneys John Eastman and Ken Chesebro.
Ellis’s big idea was that Mike Pence would purport to be “confused” about the intent of the swing state legislators and then invent a rule allowing him to order those legislators to convene and make their wishes known by January 15. No one at the campaign appears to have paid the slightest attention to the Crayola scribblings of the “Senior Legal Advisor,” but at least she got a mention in DA Willis’s indictment!
For weeks after her August indictment, Ellis kept up her schtick as the Lord’s favorite internet troll.
“His life for my salvation. Romans 8:28,” she tweeted on August 18. “If you have not accepted Jesus as your Lord than you are far worse off than any indictment, friend. You’ve already been convicted and your punishment eternal. My future is secure in Christ.”
And while it’s delightful to contemplate your enemies spending eternity in the pits of hell, going bankrupt from legal fees does tend to put a damper on the fun. When it became clear that even Donald Trump isn’t stupid enough to pay his co-defendants’ legal bills in a criminal RICO case, Christian Girl Autumn started to feel unseasonably chilly. And that chill turned positively frigid after Ellis endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and MAGAworld turned on her. So this week, she finally tapped out, joining fellow attorneys Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell, along with bail bondsman Scott Hall, in accepting reduced charges and no jail time in exchange for agreeing to testify against their co-defendants.
On Tuesday, Ellis pled guilty to one count of Aiding and Abetting False Statements and Writings, under O.C.G.A. § 16-10-20 in relation to the lies she told to the state senators at that hearing in December 2020. She’ll pay $5,000 in restitution and serve five years of probation, although her conviction will be expunged under Georgia’s First Offender Statute if she can manage to stay out of trouble. She’ll also have to testify against her co-defendants, which is decidedly bad news for Trump, and even worse news for Giuliani, whom she worked closely with for months.
For the first fifteen minutes of her hearing Tuesday before Judge Scott McAfee, Ellis appeared cheerful and relaxed, even giggling with her attorneys. But when it came time for her to address the court, her demeanor shifted abruptly.
“As an attorney who is also a Christian, I take my responsibilities as a lawyer very seriously, and I endeavor to be a person of strong ethical and moral character in all of my dealings,” she said in a quavering voice.
While acknowledging her failure to perform basic “due diligence,” she deflected blame, claiming to have been led astray by “lawyers with many more years of experience than I.” (Hi, Rudy!)
“Your Honor, I have taken responsibility already before the Colorado Bar, who censured me. And I now take responsibility before this court and apologize to the people of Georgia,” she concluded tearfully. (You can watch Ellis’s statement in the timestamped video below.)
In fact, her show of remorse in Colorado appears to have lasted just long enough to preserve her license to practice law. In February, she resolved a bar complaint by signing a Stipulation to Discipline admitting to making 10 “misrepresentations while serving as counsel for the Trump campaign and personal counsel to President Trump.” On multiple occasions, Ellis falsely asserted that the campaign had evidence of fraud, including affidavits and manipulated ballots. She even once made the bizarre claim that "Hillary Clinton still has not conceded the 2016 election."
After signing the stipulation agreeing that she’d made false statements and violated her duty of candor, Ellis immediately took to Twitter to announce that she’d done no such thing.
“The politically-motivated Left failed miserably in their attempt to destroy me. They’re now trying to falsely discredit me by saying I admitted I lied,” she huffed. “That is FALSE. I would NEVER lie. Lying requires INTENTIONALLY making a false statement. I never did that, nor did I stipulate to or admit that.”
And in Georgia, she couldn’t even maintain her contrition through a 25-minute hearing.
“Your honor, it is our understanding that there won’t be any travel restrictions,” her lawyer wheedled after Ellis shut off the waterworks. Judge McAfee referred Ellis to the Out of State Probation Office for processing.
“That may mean if she has a flight today, I don’t know if that’s going to be possible,” the court hedged.
“We do have flights booked this afternoon,” her lawyer persisted, assuring the court that Ellis was “not a flight risk.”
“Until Florida says they can accept her case, she has to stay in Georgia,” a representative from the probation office replied off camera, noting that office would do its best to get her out as soon as her paperwork was completed. But that wasn’t good enough for Ellis, who asked to be excused from all that unpleasantness in time to make a 2pm flight.
In short, the hearing at which she took responsibility for her actions commenced at 9am. And by 9:30, she’d already shed even the appearance of penitence and was demanding to be excused from her legal obligations.
“God is good all the time. Even in the midst of an evil world. Psalm 91,” she tweeted that morning. Because you heathens can put Jenna Ellis on probation, but she’s going to heaven with Jesus, and you’re not.
That’s it for this week
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