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Ex-Trump lawyer John Eastman seeks to postpone his California disbarment proceedings

A Trump indictment referred to six co-conspirators who assisted him in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including Eastman.
John Eastman at a news conference in Boulder, Colo.
John Eastman at a news conference in Boulder, Colo., on April 29, 2021.Andy Cross / The Denver Post via Getty Images file

John Eastman, the Trump-allied lawyer who created a memo arguing that then-Vice President Mike Pence could overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, is asking a California judge to postpone disbarment proceedings against him over concerns that he could face criminal charges after former President Donald Trump's federal indictment last week.

In his third indictment this year, Trump was criminally charged last week with four counts of trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election and subvert lawful votes after special counsel Jack Smith’s monthslong investigation.

“[R]ecent developments in the investigation have renewed and intensified his concerns that the federal government might bring charges against him,” Eastman’s attorneys Randall Miller and Zachary Mayer wrote in a filing late last week.

The lawyers noted that Trump’s third indictment refers to six unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators who allegedly assisted Trump in his efforts to overturn the results of the election — a Justice Department official, a political consultant and four attorneys. They mentioned that “numerous media outlets” have speculated that Eastman is one of the alleged co-conspirators. Eastman’s lawyer had confirmed to NBC News that his client was most likely "Co-Conspirator 2" in the indictment and said his client was innocent.

Eastman’s lawyers argued that if the disbarment proceedings aren’t postponed, he “faces the difficult choice of asserting his Fifth Amendment right” — which allows people to refuse to provide testimony — during the proceedings, which could waive “his constitutional right against self-incrimination.”

Eastman "respectfully requests that the Court stay this proceeding pending resolution of the parallel federal criminal investigation and, depending on the outcome of the investigation, any possible resultant criminal trial,” the lawyers wrote, suggesting that "alternatively" they would seek "a three-month stay to allow for further assessment at that time.”

The counsel for the State Bar of California is asking a court to revoke Eastman’s license to practice law in the state. Eastman faces 11 disciplinary charges alleging he engaged in a plot to push a far-fetched legal strategy for Pence to overturn Biden’s victory as a joint session of Congress counted the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021. Prosecutors alleged that Eastman made false and misleading statements with his baseless claims of widespread election fraud, including his remarks at the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse south of the White House shortly before the Capitol attack.

The disciplinary hearings began in June in Los Angeles, but they were postponed to late August after proceedings went longer than expected.

The state bar announced an ethics investigation into Eastman’s conduct last year. He faces multiple allegations that he violated the state’s business and professions code by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.”

Eastman therefore “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’s chief trial counsel, George Cardona, said in a release in January. 

Eastman was admitted to the California Bar in 1997, according to the state bar’s portal. He was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and is a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute, a conservative California think tank.

Eastman was also the dean of the Chapman University law school in Southern California. He retired last year after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter demanding that the university take action against him.