NATIONAL NEWS

Attorney John Eastman surrenders on charges in Trump’s Georgia 2020 election subversion case

Aug 22, 2023, 7:09 AM | Updated: 8:12 pm

FILE - Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division...

FILE - Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, on Sept. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — John Eastman, the conservative attorney who pushed a plan to keep Donald Trump in power, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday on charges in the Georgia case alleging an illegal plot to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss.

Eastman was booked at the Fulton County jail and is expected to have an arraignment in the coming weeks in the sprawling racketeering case.

He was indicted last week alongside Trump and 17 others, who are accused by District Attorney Fani Willis of scheming to subvert the will of Georgia voters in a desperate bid to keep Joe Biden out of the White House. It was the fourth criminal case brought against the Republican former president.

Trump, whose bond was set Monday at $200,000, has said he will surrender to authorities in Fulton County on Thursday. His bond conditions prohibit him from intimidating co-defendants, witnesses or victims in the case, including on social media. He has a history of assailing the prosecutors leading the cases against him, including Willis.

Eastman said in a statement provided by his lawyers that he was surrendering Tuesday “to an indictment that should never have been brought.” He criticized the indictment for targeting “attorneys for their zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients” and said each of the 19 defendants was entitled to rely on the advice of lawyers and past legal precedent to challenge the results of the election.

A former dean of Chapman University Law School in Southern California, Eastman was a close adviser to Trump in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by the president’s supporters intent on halting the certification of Biden’s electoral victory. He wrote a memo laying out steps Vice President Mike Pence could take to stop the counting of electoral votes while presiding over Congress’ joint session on Jan. 6 in order to keep Trump in office.

After the 2020 election, Eastman and others pushed to put in place a slate of “alternate” electors falsely certifying that Trump won and tried to pressure Pence to reject or delay the counting of legitimate electoral votes for Biden, a Democrat.

Bail bondsman Scott Hall, who was accused of participating in a breach of election equipment in rural Coffee County, Georgia, also turned himself in to the Fulton County Jail on Tuesday.

Two other defendants, former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark and former Georgia Republican Party chair David Shafer, have filed paperwork aiming to transfer the case to federal court. Willis has filed paperwork in Fulton County Superior Court, where the indictment was filed, seeking a March 4 trial date. Legal maneuvering, such as the attempts to move the case to federal court, could make it difficult to start a trial that soon.

Lawyers for Clark argued in their court filing Monday that he was a high-ranking Justice Department official and the actions described in the indictment “relate directly to his work at the Justice Department as well as with the former President of the United States.” Shafer’s attorneys argued that his conduct “stems directly from his service as a Presidential Elector nominee,” actions they say were “at the direction of the President and other federal officers.”

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows last week made similar arguments in a federal court filing, saying his actions were taken in service to his White House role. A judge has scheduled a hearing for Monday in that case.

Attorneys for Meadows and Clark both filed motions seeking to keep their clients from having to turn themselves in at the Fulton County Jail by the deadline at noon Friday.

Clark’s motion sought to stay any proceedings in Fulton County Superior Court while Meadows’ motion asks the judge to immediately rule that his case can be moved to federal court or to issue an order prohibiting Willis from arresting him before Monday’s hearing. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones gave Willis’ office until 3 p.m. Wednesday to respond to both motions.

Meadows’ motion says that before turning to the court his lawyers asked Willis for an extension, but she rejected that request, saying in an email Tuesday that at 12:30 p.m. Friday she would “file warrants in the system.”

Clark was a staunch supporter of Trump’s false claims of election fraud and in December 2020 presented colleagues with a draft letter pushing Georgia officials to convene a special legislative session on the election results, according to testimony before the U.S. House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Clark wanted the letter sent, but Justice Department superiors refused.

Shafer was one of 16 Georgia Republicans who signed a certificate declaring falsely that Trump had won the 2020 presidential election in the state and declaring themselves the “duly elected and qualified” electors even though Biden had won the state and a slate of Democratic electors was certified.

Shafer was one of several defendants whose lawyers negotiated bond amounts with the district attorney’s office on Tuesday. His bond was set at $75,000.

Bond was set at $100,000 for Jenna Ellis, an attorney who prosecutors say was involved in efforts to convince state lawmakers to unlawfully appoint presidential electors. Bond was set at $50,000 for Michael Roman, a former White House aide who served as a director of Trump’s Election Day operations and was involved in efforts to put forth a set of fake electors after the 2020 election. Robert Cheeley, a lawyer accused of helping organize the fake electors meeting at the state Capitol in December 2020 and then lying about what he knew to a special grand jury, had a bond set at $14,000.

Bond was set at $10,000 for Shawn Still, another of the fake electors who was elected to the Georgia state Senate in November 2022 and represents a district in Atlanta’s suburbs. Cathy Latham, another fake elector who also is accused of participating in a breach of election equipment in Coffee County, had a bond set at $75,000. Stephen Cliffgard Lee, a pastor who prosecutors say worked with others to pressure a Fulton County election worker, had a bond set at $75,000.

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Attorney John Eastman surrenders on charges in Trump’s Georgia 2020 election subversion case