Thursday, June 20, 2024

Donald Trump’s Election Lawyer Threatened With Disbarment in California

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In a move to have him disbarred, the State Bar of California has filed 11 misconduct charges against John Eastman, former President Donald Trump’s election lawyer, accusing him of moral turpitude for pushing false claims about election fraud before the Jan. 6 violence and attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The  State Bar of California’s Office of Chief Trial counsel will ask the State Bar Court to strike off Eastman. For that request to take effect, it must be approved by the California Supreme Court. Eastman, 62, is a former law professor who has been a licensed attorney in the Golden State since 1997.

“For California attorneys, adherence to the U.S. and California constitutions is their highest legal duty,” Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona said in a press release. “The Notice of Disciplinary Charges alleges that Mr. Eastman violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land—an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy—for which he must be held accountable.”

The state bar announced an investigation into Eastman in March and agency prosecutors filed a 35-page notice of disciplinary charges on Thursday, detailing what they say are Eastman’s repeated misrepresentations about the 2020 presidential election result—these were in two legal memos and during a rally in Washington, D.C.

Eastman knew “by no later than on or about Dec. 9, 2020…that there was no evidence upon which a reasonable attorney would rely of election fraud or illegality that could have affected the outcome of the election,” the charges read, adding that he knew all along there was no evidence that the election had been “stolen” from Trump. 

Still, Eastman continued to publicly push the idea, prosecutors say, which violated his duties as an attorney “in two ways.” The first involves him providing legal advice, formulating strategies, and engaging in litigation based on allegations he either knew “or was grossly negligent in not knowing” were false—specifically, his opinion that the vice president has unilateral authority to delay the vote count. The second involves him proposing legal actions that prosecutors say were based on misrepresentations of historical sources and law review articles.

Statements Eastman made at the “Save America March” on January 6, 2021, are quoted heavily. He said, “that ‘dead people had voted’ in the presidential election, that Dominion voting machines had fraudulently manipulated results, and that former VP Mike Pence did not deserve to be in office if he did not delay the count. All of these statements directly provoked the crowd that attacked the U.S. Capitol, this week’s press release states. 

The charges reflect rulings issued by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana, who oversaw a case that began with Eastman trying to stop Chapman University from releasing his emails to the Jan. 6 Committee.

Carter ruled that the legal concept known as the crime-fraud exception applied to emails that qualified as privileged attorney work product or client communications, thus allowing the Jan. 6 Committee to receive them. In doing so, Carter said Eastman and Trump “more likely than not” attempted to obstruct an official proceeding and conspired to defraud the country by trying to derail the certification of the electoral vote by Congress.

Carter went on to issue two other major rulings. In November, he concluded Trump and Eastman knowingly pushed false information about voter fraud in Fulton County, Georgia, to the public and in a federal court filing Trump signed after he was told the information was false.

In December, the committee referred Trump to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal charges, including obstructing an official proceeding, defrauding the United States, making false statements and assisting or aiding an insurrection. 

Eastman’s new state bar charges include one count of seeking to mislead a court in relation to his legal actions in Georgia.

Read the full charging document here.

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