Trump Adviser Faces Possible Disbarment Over His Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election

June 20, 2023by Stefanie Dazio and Michael R. Blood, The Associated Press
Trump Adviser Faces Possible Disbarment Over His Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election
FILE - Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2017. An effort to disbar Eastman, who devised ways to keep former President Donald Trump in the White House after his defeat in the 2020 election, will begin Tuesday, June 20, 2023, in Los Angeles. Eastman is expected to spend the day testifying before the State Bar of California in a proceeding that could result in him losing his license to practice law in the state. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Attorney John Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, faces possible disbarment in disciplinary proceedings that began Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Eastman faces 11 disciplinary charges stemming from his development of a dubious legal strategy aimed at helping Trump overturn the election by disrupting the counting of state electoral votes.

The State Bar Court of California will hear testimony, including from Eastman, in a proceeding that could result in him losing his license to practice law in the state. Others who will testify include Greg Jacob, a former attorney for then-Vice President Mike Pence. Jacob had pushed back against Eastman’s plan to have Pence stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Pence didn’t have the power to overturn the election and has said so.

In a memo critics have likened to instructions for staging a coup, Eastman argued that Pence could keep Trump in power by overturning the results of the election during a joint session of Congress convened to count electoral votes.

The proceedings are expected to last at least eight days. If the State Bar Court finds Eastman culpable of the alleged violations it can recommend a punishment such as suspending or revoking his law license. The California Supreme Court makes the final decision.

Eastman is scheduled to testify in his own defense Tuesday.

The State Bar alleges that Eastman violated California’s business and professions code by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption,” and in doing so he “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.”

Eastman’s attorney previously said his client disputes “every aspect” of the allegations.

The State Bar’s action “is part of a nationwide effort to use the bar discipline process to penalize attorneys who opposed the current administration in the last presidential election. Americans of both political parties should be troubled by this politicization of our nation’s state bars,” Eastman’s attorney, Randall A. Miller, said in a statement when the charges were announced in January.

Eastman has been a member of the California Bar since 1997, according to its website. He was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute. He ran for California attorney general in 2010, finishing second in the Republican primary.

Eastman retired as dean of the Chapman University law school in Southern California last year after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter calling for the university to take action against him.

The California State Bar is a regulatory agency and the only court system in the U.S. that is dedicated to attorney discipline.

Eastman’s disciplinary hearing comes as special counsel Jack Smith continues his investigation into efforts by Trump and his Republican allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

A federal grand jury in Washington has been meeting behind closed doors for months to hear testimony from witnesses, including Pence, who has publicly described a pressure campaign by Trump aimed at getting him to halt Congress’ certification of the election results and the win by Biden, a Democrat.

Federal agents seized Eastman’s cellphone last summer as he was leaving a restaurant, he said in a court filing. That day, law enforcement officials conducted similar activity around the country as part of their probe.

Since Smith’s appointment in November, he has cast a broad net in demanding interviews and testimony related to fundraising, Trump’s rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, and communications between Trump associates and election officials in battleground states. Eastman spoke at the rally.

In December, Smith subpoenaed local election officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania, asking for communications with or involving Trump, his 2020 campaign aides and a list of allies — including Eastman — who were involved in his efforts to try to overturn the results of the election.

The investigation is separate from another probe by Smith into classified documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, that led this month to felony charges against Trump. Trump pleaded not guilty last week to 37 felony counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice.


Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer contributed from Boston.

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