Trump lawyer John Eastman refuses to answer questions from Georgia grand jury

WASHINGTON – John Eastmanthe lawyer who developed former President Donald Trump’s strategy to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory, appeared Wednesday before a Georgian grand jury investigating interference in the 2020 election.

Eastman’s lawyers, Charles Burnham and Harvey Silverglate, issued a statement saying they advised him to refuse to answer questions under his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The lawyers declined to reveal the substance of the questions posed.

“By all indications, the District Attorney’s Office has set itself on an unprecedented path of criminalizing controversial or disfavored legal theories, possibly in hopes that the federal government will follow its lead,” the statement said. “Criminalization of unpopular legal theories is against every American tradition and would have ended the careers of John Adams, Ruth Ginsburg, Thurgood Marshall and many other now-celebrated American lawyers.”

Separately, Silverglate raised concerns that his client had become a target of the investigation along with Trump attorney Rudy Guiliani and 16 others who served as alternate electors for Trump in the state in an attempt to void President Joe Biden’s victory.

“The reason is that criminal prosecutors are able, in the jargon of my trade, ‘able to indict a ham sandwich.’ ” Silverglate told USA TODAY in an email. “Criminal statutes are broad and vague so that just about everyone has done something that arguably could be twisted to fit into some definition of a crime. We are all vulnerable.”

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Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in 2017. Eastman was also a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump.

Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in 2017. Eastman was also a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump.

Eastman previously refused to answer questions at the House committee investigating the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, by citing the Fifth Amendment.

A federal judge in California has already been ruled Eastman and Trump more likely than not acted unlawfully in trying to overturn the election, but neither has been charged criminally.

Eastman’s strategy called for then-Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, to reject electors for Biden from seven contested states when Congress counted Electoral College votes. Rejecting the votes would either hand the election to Trump or send it to the House of Representatives, where a majority of Republican delegations could name Trump president.

Pence refused to participate.

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The grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, is investigating potential interference and has called witnesses including Eastman, Giuliani and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

Trump called Kemp and urged him to “find” enough votes to flip Georgia from Biden to Trump in 2020.

According to court documents seeking Giuliani’s grand jury appearance, Fulton County authorities are highlighting the Trump lawyer’s Dec. 3, 2020, appearance before the Georgia state Senate in which he offered a video recording of election workers at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, purporting to show “suitcases” of unlawful ballots from unknown sources, outside the view of election poll watchers.

Within 24 hours of the state Senate hearing, the video had been discredited by the secretary of state’s office, concluding “no voter fraud of any kind had taken place.”

Fulton County officials referred to the same Senate hearing in seeking Eastman’s grand jury testimony.

At that hearing, Eastman referred to the plan to assemble alternate slates of electors to support Trump. The Trump attorney, according to court documents, told lawmakers that they had a “duty” to replace the slate of Democratic Party electors citing unfounded claims of voter fraud in the state.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: John Eastman, lawyer for Donald Trump, stays mum at Georgia grand jury

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