The first of the 18 co-defendants of former U.S. President Donald Trump facing 2020 election interference and racketeering charges in the southern state of Georgia are starting to turn themselves in to be arrested and booked.
John Eastman, a former Trump lawyer who pushed a plan to have then-Vice President Mike Pence attempt to block congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, surrendered Tuesday to Fulton County authorities in the Georgia state capital city, Atlanta. Another defendant, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman who was a Republican poll watcher in Georgia, also turned himself in.
Eastman faces nine charges that could, if he is convicted, land him in prison for years. On Monday, he reached a $100,000 bond agreement to be released pending trial.
Eastman was adamant in his intention to fight the allegations brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
"I am here today to surrender to an indictment that should never have been brought," Eastman said in a statement. "It represents a crossing of the Rubicon for our country, implicating the fundamental First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances."
In a separate election interference case filed against Trump alone in Washington by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, Eastman has been identified as one of Trump’s six unnamed co-conspirators in trying to upend the 2020 election outcome so Trump could stay in power.
But Eastman lawyer Harvey Silverglate has said his client has no intention of plea bargaining with either federal or state prosecutors to lessen the threat to his freedom.
“With respect to questions as to whether Dr. Eastman is involved in plea bargaining, the answer is no,” Silverglate said in a statement earlier this month. “But if he were invited to plea bargain with either state or federal prosecutors, he would decline. The fact is, if Dr. Eastman is indicted, he will go to trial. If convicted, he will appeal. The Eastman legal team is confident of its legal position in this matter.”
Trump, facing 13 charges in the Georgia case, says he is set to fly from his golf resort in New Jersey to Atlanta on Thursday to be arrested and booked, the fourth criminal indictment filed against him in the last five months. In all, he is accused of committing 91 offenses before, during and after his single-term presidency.
"Can you believe it? I’ll be going to Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday to be ARRESTED,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social account.
The former president’s lawyers reached an agreement on Monday with Georgia authorities on a $200,000 bond so he could be released pending trial, with Trump also agreeing to not threaten or intimidate witnesses, including on social media platforms.
Even as he faces weeks-long trials in the first half of 2024, Trump holds a commanding lead among Republican voters for the party’s presidential nomination in next year’s national election. To this day, he contends that vote-counting fraud in the 2020 election cheated him out of another term in the White House. Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the four indictments against him.
In last week’s 41-count indictment encompassing 19 defendants, Willis, the Fulton County prosecutor, filed seven charges against Hall.
He is alleged to be involved in an effort to illegally breach election equipment in Coffee County, Georgia, more than 300 kilometers from Atlanta, to try to prove a conspiracy theory that the voting machines had been rigged in Biden’s favor.
At the heart of the case against Trump in Georgia is his taped phone call in early 2021 to state election officials asking them to “find” him 11,780 votes, one more than Biden’s margin of victory.
Willis has asked that the sprawling Georgia racketeering and conspiracy case be started March 4, but Trump’s lawyers have yet to propose a trial date. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee will eventually set the date.