Trump Indictment Troublemakers: John Eastman Edition

Former Trump attorney John Eastman. (Image from YouTube interview with Tom Klingenstein.)

Former president Donald Trump was at the center of the criminal charges filed this week related to his attempts to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, but he was not alone: 18 other people were indicted with Trump under racketeering charges brought by a grand jury convened by Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis. Right Wing Watch is publishing brief profiles of some of Trump’s fellow indictees. In this segment, former Trump attorney John Eastman.

John Eastman, Unrepentant Insurrectionist, Unsuccessful Pardon-Seeker

John Eastman, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, “has long advanced positions on the far-right fringe of the legal community on issues ranging from immigration to LGBTQ equality to separation of church and state,” as Right Wing Watch noted in a December 2020 profile. As part of Trump’s legal team, Eastman was an energetic advocate for the fringe theory that Vice President Mike Pence could and should unilaterally refuse to accept certified Electoral College votes from swing states won by President Joe Biden.

Eastman was hit with nine counts in the Georgia indictment, according to the Daily Beast, including:

  • Violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act;
  • Solicitation of violation of oath by public officer;
  • Conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer;
  • Conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree;
  • Conspiracy to commit false statements and writings;
  • Conspiracy to commit filing false documents; and
  • Filing false documents.

Eastman is the founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at The Claremont Institute, which former Right Wing Watch investigative reporter Jared Holt called “an increasingly white nationalist think tank” back in 2019, the year that Claremont made “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec a fellow. Just this month, journalist Katherine Stewart dubbed Claremont “the anti-democracy think tank” in a deep dive for The New Republic.

As Right Wing Watch was among the first to report, Claremont’s chairman Thomas Klingenstein hosted and posted online a three-part interview with Eastman that was clearly designed to let him portray his work on behalf of Trump’s bid to stay in power in the best possible light. Eastman continued to promote claims about election fraud that were debunked long ago, and he refused to “discount” even the most “out there” and “far-fetched” fraud claims—presumably a reference to fellow Trump election lawyer and indicted co-conspirator Sidney Powell’s fantastical and unproven claims about international conspiracies to rig voting machines.

The final segment of Eastman’s interview was published on the day of Trump’s arraignment in Washington, D.C. in his first criminal indictment related to the 2020 election (Eastman was an unnamed and unindicted co-conspirator in that indictment). Eastman justified his actions as necessary to save America from a left bent on its destruction, and he told Klingenstein that if Pence had followed his advice, and riots erupted across the country in protest, he would have counted on the military to recognize Trump as their commander-in-chief and restore order. The unrepentant Eastman told Klingenstein that he would still give the same legal advice today.

Eastman’s role in Trump’s attempted coup was highlighted in one of the public hearings held by the congressional committee that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection. Eastman was at the forefront of the Trump team’s relentless behind-the-scenes campaign to pressure Pence to violate the Electoral Count Act over the objections of White House attorneys.

Eastman even helped rile up the crowd at Trump’s rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, by repeating false charges about voting fraud, “demanding” that Pence stop the count and send the question back to swing state legislators.

That afternoon, Pence’s chief counsel Greg Jacob texted Eastman as the mob was attacking the Capitol, saying “Thanks to your bullsh**t, we are now under siege.” In a response uncovered by the Jan. 6 committee, Eastman replied that “the siege is because you and your boss [Pence] did not do what was necessary.” But even then, Eastman wasn’t done, imploring Jacob “to consider one more relatively minor violation [of the Electoral Count Act] and adjourn for ten days to allow the legislatures to finish their investigations.”

Eastman later emailed indicted co-conspirator Rudy Giuliani asking to be put on Trump’s pardon list, but despite all that he did to help Trump stay in power, a pardon was not forthcoming.

Back in January, Eastman appeared on a religious-right prayer call organized by supporters of Trump’s efforts to stay in power, where he quoted scripture, described himself as a champion of truth, and portrayed his legal troubles as a Stalinist form of legal persecution.

Claremont chair and interviewer Klingenstein, a major donor to far-right causes, describes himself in the “about” section of his YouTube channel as someone who “believes that we are in a cold civil war.” The description of Klingenstein continues: “The enemy—what he calls the ‘Woke Comms’—are winning, in large measure because Republican leaders have yet to engage. His essays, speeches and plays all encourage Republicans to do just that—to think, talk, and act as if we are at war.”

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