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Here is why a New Mexico man is charged in the Trump case

John Eastman stands at left as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks in Washington at a rally in support of President Donald Trump, called the “Save America Rally,", Jan. 6, 2021. Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press
Santa Fe resident John Eastman charged with nine federal counts related to attempt to overturn 2020 election

Santa Fe-based attorney John Eastman was indicted by a grand jury in Fulton County, Ga. Monday, along with former President Donald Trump and 17 others.

The indictment alleges that defendants including Eastman entered into a criminal conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, with various co-conspirators committing dozens of crimes in relation to the scheme.

The charges against Eastman include violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act, a law generally used to go after mafia groups.

Eastman is also charged with solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree, two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings, conspiracy to commit filing false documents and filing false documents.

Announcing the indictment, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Trump and his allies engaged in “a criminal conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in this state” and participated in “a criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia and elsewhere to accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office beginning on Jan. 20, 2021.”

Attorney John Eastman, the architect of a legal strategy aimed at keeping former President Donald Trump in power, talks to reporters after a hearing in Los Angeles, June 20. Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press

Willis asked the public to “please remember that everyone charged in this bill of indictment is presumed innocent.”

Arrest warrants have been issued for everyone charged in the indictment, Willis said, and asked defendants to voluntarily surrender by Friday, Aug. 25. She said the charges were not political, and added that it is the eleventh RICO indictment in Fulton County since she took office and prosecutors “followed the same process, we look at the facts, we look at the law and we bring charges.”

Eastman was also listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal indictment of Trump earlier this month. And he’s facing a disbarment proceeding in California related to his actions following the 2020 election.

Harvey Silverglate and Charles Burnham, attorneys representing Eastman, said in a statement that Eastman “will challenge this indictment in any and all forums available to him.”

The statement said the indictment “goes hand-in-glove with the recent effort to criminalize lawful political speech and legal advice” and called it “a legal cluster-bomb that leaves unexploded ordinances for lawyers to navigate in perpetuity.”

Eastman could not be reached for comment but in an Aug. 2 post on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Eastman retweeted conservative commentator Josh Hammer, who claimed the federal indictment, “Criminaliz[es] alternative interpretations of the Constitution” and called federal prosecutors “clowns.”

Eastman added “Thanks, Josh. Important to put this in the larger context of what is happening here.”

Eastman and the fake electors

Much of Eastman’s role in the indictment centers on his alleged participation in a fraudulent scheme to substitute valid electoral votes for Joe Biden with fake electoral votes falsely claiming that Trump won the 2020 election.

According to the indictment, Eastman, Trump, occasional movie star and attorney Rudy Giuliani and several other co-conspirators “unlawfully conspired to cause certain individuals to falsely hold themselves out as the duly elected and qualified presidential electors from the State of Georgia,” in violation of state law.

The indictment also alleges that Eastman played a role in the attempt to have Congress throw out Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, and that he illegally filed false documents in a federal lawsuit that sought to overturn the election results.

Republicans in New Mexico submitted their own fake electoral votes claiming that Trump was the state’s victor, and Willis’ office alleges in the indictment that the criminal conspiracy outlined in the charges also operated in the state of New Mexico.

“This criminal organization constituted an enterprise … The enterprise operated in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, in other states, including, but not limited to, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and in the District of Columbia,” the indictment reads.

The indictment also names Ken Chesebro, an attorney working with Eastman, as allegedly playing a role in New Mexico’s fake elector scheme. According to the indictment, Chesebro sent an email to Trump aide Mike Roman containing documents intended to be used by New Mexico’s fake electors, which the indictment calls “an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

Eastman is additionally charged with lying in a document he filed in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results, allegedly making multiple false statements including the claim that over 10,000 dead people voted in Georgia in 2020.

Willis offered at least eight of Georgia’s 16 fake electors immunity in exchange for grand jury testimony, but three of the state’s fake electors were charged in the indictment. David Shafer, Shawn Still and Cathleen Alston Latham were charged with forgery in the first degree and several other crimes related to their alleged participation in the fake elector scheme, while Shafer is additionally charged with lying to investigators and Latham is charged with conspiracy to commit election fraud for allegedly assisting a private firm to tamper with election equipment in Coffee County, Georgia.

All 16 fake electors in Michigan were indicted on state charges last month, and the new indictment from Georgia highlights the question of whether New Mexico’s fake electors will be charged for their actions.