John Eastman Raises MAGA Money for Stymie January 6th Committee

GiveSendGo, the Christian Right’s version of GoFundMe, is a leading platform for Jan. 6 defendants seeking help with legal bills related to the Capitol insurgency. “QAnon Shaman” Jake Chansley raised $13,000; Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes raised (a surprisingly modest amount) $12,000; Proud Boy frontman Enrique Tarrio raised $113,000.

But one of January 6’s most successful crowdfunding efforts involves providing a legal war chest to a man who is no defendant at all. At least not yet.

John Eastman is the far-right lawyer who accelerated Donald Trump’s last-ditch effort to overthrow the 2020 election, penning a pair of memos that claimed – contrary to the facts – that the election was stolen and that Vice President Mike Pence had secret constitutional superpowers to thwart the counting of the Electoral College vote.

Eastman raised nearly $180,000 on GiveSendGo for his “Legal Defense Fund”, in a crowdfunding campaign that portrays him as a victim of “hard-core leftist activists” and “hyper-partisan” investigators. Still, Eastman has put a strain on the “defense” brand – choosing to spend the money to sue the January 6 committee, while vowing to “go on the attack” against his critics.

Eastman tells rolling stone that he published the page to meet the demand of the MAGA market. “A lot of people were asking for ways to help. Simple enough,” he said in an email. “And, just as importantly, it’s also a site where people can send prayers of support.”

For his role in spreading the Big Lie and trying to block certification of Joe Biden’s victory, Eastman is not without legal troubles. The Jan. 6 committee attempted to compel him to testify last December, but Eastman’s armed investigators with a letter invoke his “right not to testify against himself”. When the committee then subpoenaed Eastman’s email records from Chapman University — the private Southern California school where Eastman served as a law professor — Eastman sued to block the disclosure.

This litigation succeeded in keeping some documents off the public record, but at the cost of increased legal risk for Eastman and his former client, Trump. Federal District Judge David O. Carter weighed Eastman’s claims to attorney-client privilege against the “criminal fraud exception” that nullifies legal privilege when a client has sought assistance from a lawyer for “the commission of a fraud or a crime”.

In a scathing decision from late March, Justice Carter found that “Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a Democratic election”; that “the illegality of the plan was evident”; and that their efforts amounted to “a coup in search of legal theory”. Justice Carter asserted that the available evidence implicated Trump in serious crimes and that “it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the joint session of Congress on 6 January 2021”.

The language of the court ruling was stark, but neither Trump nor Eastman currently faces charges, which are expected to be brought by the Justice Department. Eastman’s attorney released a statement insisting that the court “relyed on evidence chosen by the committee” and was not bound by standards of criminal procedure, adding that “Dr. Eastman has an unblemished record as a lawyer and is respectfully disagreeing with the judge’s findings.

Although not previously known, Eastman, 62, has a prodigious right-wing pedigree. He clerked for Clarence Thomas, argued Supreme Court cases, and made (unsuccessful) GOP bids for Congress and the California Attorney General. He also held a leadership position with the Federalist Society and as President of the council for the National Organization for Marriage, which has long fought to ban same-sex marriage.

Eastman burst onto the 2020 scene with a widely pilloried Newsweek article arguing that Kamala Harris was not a “natural-born citizen” due to her parents’ immigration status at the time of her birth. (The news site later apologized for publishing Eastman’s essay, writing, “All of us at Newsweek are horrified that this editorial has given rise to a wave of vile Birtherism directed against Senator Harris. »

At the end of December 2020, Eastman published a two page memo, broadcast at the White House, insisting that the Voter Count Act – which sets out orderly procedures for verifying and counting certified Electoral College votes – is unconstitutional, and that the sole authority for the count (or not) of these votes resides with the Vice President. “The point is, the Constitution assigns that power to the vice president as the ultimate arbiter,” Eastman explained.

In the days leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, Eastman was brought to the White House as Trump’s new favorite attorney. He expanded his ideas outrageously into a six-page memo calling for bold actions to put into play countdown scenarios where “TRUMP WINS”. Trump and Eastman, per Justice Carter’s ruling, then urged Pence to illegally subvert the will of the people, making the argument both in person and in speeches at the Ellipse on the morning of Jan. 6. but also a legal justification,” Carter said, adding that simply “believing that the Voter Count Act was unconstitutional did not give President Trump the right to violate it.”

It’s rare for a lawyer of Eastman’s prominence and connection to turn to crowdfunding to help pay the bills. Eastman no longer works at Chapman University, but he retains a plum position at the Claremont Institute – which, as rolling stone reported, is richly funded by major right-wing billionaire clans, including the “DeVoses, Bradleys and Scaifes.” Eastman’s private legal practice, on the other hand, would have counts among its clients a joint fundraising committee for right-wing celebrity reps Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Either way, Eastman’s fund has been a hit among the MAGA set, attracting 2,500 donors since it was first released in late 2021, with an average donation of $70. The success of the fundraising has inflated the main objectives of the campaign. The initial goal of $100,000 was quickly increased to $150,000 and then to $200,000.

A note left by a recent anonymous $25 donor reveals still-burning anger over the 2020 election result and the Jan. 6 investigation into the insurgency: “Thank you for standing up to the crowd (the committee of pelosi). We need to see those responsible refuse to comply with the lawless acts of Marxist tactics,” the donor writes. “Stay strong for our Republic and the rule of law that you have staunchly defended.”

The branding of the crowd-funded “Legal Defense Fund” is questionable. After all, Eastman sued the January 6 committee, not the other way around. And his final note increasing the crowdfunding goal reads in part: “A number of you have suggested that we increase the goal of this fund in order to … move on to infringement – ​​possibly legal action. defamation against these evil people [sic] spreading lies…. It all sounds good to me. (Crowdfunding campaigns are lightly regulated, and Eastman seems to have few limits on how he chooses to spend the money.)

In an email to rolling stone, Eastman defended the “Legal Defense Fund” label as “a fairly accurate description” and “not ‘dishonest’ at all”. He insisted he had already “spent over $100,000” to respond to the Jan. 6 subpoena and to take “steps to block the disclosure of privileged documents” by Chapman – recordings which, according to Eastman, concern “not only Trump, but more than 65 other clients. (Eastman’s legal team recently agreed to release approximately 10,000 pages of post-election documents at the January 6 committee.)

In addition to cash donations, Eastman received more than 1,000 prayers from supporters who clicked the “PRAY NOW” button on GiveSendGo. He might well need it. The California Bar announced in March that it was pursuing a ethical investigation on Eastman’s conduct of the 2020 election, the start of a process that could see Eastman “suspended or debarred.”

About Stephen Ewing

Check Also

London FXJSC Legal Sub-Committee Meeting Minutes – June 8, 2022

Minutes Meeting date: June 8, 2022Time: 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. | Location: Video meeting …