By KATE BRUMBACK (Associated Press)
ATLANTA (AP) — John Eastman, the conservative attorney who pushed a plan to keep Donald Trump in power, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday on allegations of an unlawful conspiracy to overturn the former president's election defeat in the Georgia case being accused in 2020.
Eastman has been held in the Fulton County Jail and is expected to face charges of widespread racketeering in the coming weeks.
He was indicted last week along with Trump and 17 others whom District Attorney Fani Willis has accused of plotting to undermine the will of Georgia voters in a desperate attempt to keep Joe Biden out of the White House. It was the fourth criminal case against the Republican ex-president.
Trump, whose bail was set at $200,000 on Monday, said he would turn himself in to Fulton County authorities on Thursday. His bail conditions prohibit him from intimidating co-defendants, witnesses or victims in the case, including on social media. He has a history of attacking the prosecutors who led the cases against him, including Willis.
Eastman said in a statement from his attorneys that on Tuesday he “would surrender to charges that should never have been brought.” He criticized the prosecution for targeting “lawyers for their eagerness to stand up for their clients” and said each of the 19 defendants has the right to rely on the advice of lawyers and previous precedent to challenge the election results.
A former dean of Chapman University Law School in Southern California, Eastman was a close advisor to Trump in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of the president who wanted to prevent Biden's election victory from being certified. He wrote a memo outlining steps Vice President Mike Pence could take to halt the vote count while presiding over the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to keep Trump in office.
After the 2020 election, Eastman and others pushed to create a list of “alternative” voters who falsely confirmed Trump won and attempted to pressure Pence to refuse or delay the counting of legitimate electoral votes for Biden, a Democrat .
Bail bondsman Scott Hall, who was accused of being involved in a theft of voting equipment in rural Coffee County, Georgia, also surrendered to the Fulton County jail on Tuesday.
Two other defendants, former Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clark and former Georgia Republican Party leader David Shafer, have filed filings to seek referral of the case to federal court. Willis has filed papers with the Fulton County Superior Court, where the charges were filed, requesting a March 4 hearing. Legal maneuvers, such as trying to take the case to federal court, could make it difficult to begin a trial so soon.
Attorneys for Clark argued in their court filing on Monday that he is a senior Justice Department official and that the actions described in the indictment are “directly related to his work at the Justice Department as well as to the former President of the United States.” Shafer's attorneys argued that his conduct was “directly attributable to his service as a presidential candidate” and that his actions were “at the direction of the President and other federal officials.”
Clark's attorneys also asked the federal court to stay all proceedings in Fulton County Superior Court – including the execution of a warrant – pending a determination as to whether the case should be referred to federal court. US District Judge Steve Jones gave Willis's office until 3 p.m. Wednesday to respond.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made similar arguments in a lawsuit in federal court last week, saying his actions were in service of his role at the White House. A judge has scheduled a hearing in the case for Monday.
Clark has been a staunch supporter of Trump's false allegations of voter fraud, and in December 2020 presented his colleagues with a draft letter urging Georgia officials to call a special session of the Legislature to consider the election results, as evidenced by testimony before the US House of Representatives committee the Capitol riot investigating the Jan. 6 case. Clark wanted to mail the letter, but the Department of Justice officials refused.
Shafer was one of 16 Georgia Republicans who signed a certificate falsely declaring Trump won the state's 2020 presidential election and declaring themselves “duly elected and qualified” voters, even though Biden had won the state and one List of Democratic voters was confirmed.
Shafer was one of several defendants whose attorneys negotiated bail with prosecutors on Tuesday. His bail was set at $75,000.
Bail was set at $100,000 for Jenna Ellis, an attorney who prosecutors say was involved in convincing state lawmakers to improperly nominate presidential voters. Bail was set at $50,000 for Michael Roman, a former White House aide who served as head of Trump's election day operations and was involved in efforts to field a slew of fake voters after the 2020 election.
Shawn Still, another of the sham voters who was elected to the Georgia State Senate in November 2022 and represents a district in the Atlanta suburbs, has bail set at $10,000. Cathy Latham, another bogus voter who is also accused of involvement in a theft of voting equipment in Coffee County, has been placed on $75,000 bail.