||06-22-2013 11:29 AM
I agree with your decision. The studs create a 4x4+ support system for the main header. The structure beneath the decorative woodwork is what we call "typical" and not structural. Obviously, you need to retain the top plate which runs the length under the header.
The jack stud in Photo #2 can come out too because it is part of the frmaing for the opening, not a structural component supporting the header. Similarly, the bottom plate under the opening and the cripples can come out (as you suggested) for the same reasons.
The outlet needs to be moved to the left at the same height. You have more than adequate romex to achieve that.
A nice wrap treatment for the post would celebrate it and create a nice accent. I recently saw some really nice work done using MDF crown molding to create a beautiful look on some columns.
You were very smart to ask ... No sense destroying that nice place!