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John Eastman, Anti-LGBTQ+ Activist, ID'd as Trump Co-Conspirator

John Eastman, Anti-LGBTQ+ Activist, ID'd as Trump Co-Conspirator

John Eastman

Eastman, a longtime foe of marriage equality and LGBTQ+ rights in general, is one of the co-conspirators mentioned in Tuesday's indictment of Donald Trump.

Longtime anti-LGBTQ+ activist John Eastman is one of the unindicted co-conspirators mentioned in Tuesday’s indictment of former President Donald Trump.

Special Counsel Jack Smith released a 45-page indictment Tuesday, charging Trump with four counts related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. They are conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy to violate civil rights — the right to have one’s vote counted. Trump is scheduled to appear Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The document cites six co-conspirators who are not charged — yet — and therefore doesn’t include their names. However, news outlets have figured out the identities of five of the six, and Eastman’s attorney has confirmed that he is one of them, The Hillreports. The indictment describes “Co-Conspirator 2” as “an attorney who devised and attempted to implement a strategy to leverage the Vice President’s ceremonial role overseeing the certification proceeding to obstruct the certification of the presidential election.”

Eastman circulated a memo with the plan, and the indictment quotes from the it. “Those quotes match a two-page memo that Eastman wrote,” CNN notes.

Before his association with Trump, Eastman was best known as an activist against marriage equality. In 2011, he became chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, a group with the primary mission of opposing marriage equality, although it has taken up some other far-right causes too, including, recently, opposition to transgender rights. NOM's website no longer lists Eastman as a leader, although it did a little over a year ago.

At NOM's March for Marriage in 2014, Eastman likened fighting marriage equality to fighting slavery. "The courts should never take away controversial issues away from the voters in this country," he said. "And that's absolutely right. The last time the court tried to do that a century and a half ago on the slavery question, Abraham Lincoln refused to comply. He said if we let the court be the final word, we cease to be our own rulers."

That same year, NOM sought to defend Oregon's same-sex marriage ban in court, since the state's attorney general refused to defend it. Eastman said at the time that NOM was compelled to defend the ban because its Oregon members voted for it in 2004. However, a federal judge ruled in 2014 that NOM did not have the legal standing to do so. The ban was struck down shortly thereafter. Eastman argued in support of bans in other states as well.

Among Eastman's other greatest hits, compiled by GLAAD and others, he has said marriage should be limited to male-female couples because it's for procreation; voiced support for Uganda's efforts to criminalize homosexuality, potentially imposing the death penalty; questioned Kamala Harris's eligibility to be vice president, even though she was born in the U.S., because her parents were not citizens at the time of her birth; said homosexuality is barbaric and will undermine marriage and all of civil society; and opposed gay-straight alliances and LGBTQ-inclusive lessons in schools.

Eastman was once a law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and was dean of its law school from 2007 to 2010. In 2021, he agreed to resign from Chapman immediately in the wake of his appearance at the pro-Trump rally that led to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 of that year, as Congress was certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. At the rally, he spread the lie that the election was stolen from Trump: "We know there was fraud. We know that dead people voted." Numerous Chapman faculty members had demanded that Eastman leave the school.

At the hearings of the U.S. House committee investigating the events of January 6, Eastman's name came up several times. When an aide to Vice President Mike Pence showed Pence an email from Eastman urging him to suspend the certification session, Pence called it "rubber room stuff," Greg Jacob, a lawyer for the former vice president, said at one hearing.

It has also emerged that Eastman sought a presidential pardon before Trump left office, emailing Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani about the matter. And the committee further looked into email exchanges between Eastman and right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for whom Eastman was once a law clerk. The emails "show that [Ginni] Thomas's efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known," The Washington Post reported last year.

National media outlets have identified other unindicted co-conspirators as Giuliani and three other lawyers, Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Clark, and Kenneth Cheseboro. The identity of the sixth, described in the indictment as a political consultant, remains a mystery.

Harvey Silverglate, an attorney for Eastman, told The Hill that Eastman is indeed "Co-Conspirator 2." Silverglate defended his client's actions, saying, “If you look closely at what Eastman did, it is not a crime. He acted as a lawyer coming up with far-out theories. That’s our duty. The Constitution gives people a right to effective representation of counsel.”

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