John Eastman Wants to Go to Trial
John Eastman wants his trial in Fulton County, Georgia, and he wants it now. Or at least now-ish.
Monday morning, Eastman’s lawyer asked Judge McAfee to split the remaining defendants into two groups to be tried “absent former President Trump.” Eastman claims, contrary to Fani Willis’ assessment of how long it will take her to present her case, that both trials would be complete in 2024. Willis has said that if a trial with all remaining defendants begins in August, it would still be ongoing in early 2025. She has also said that if there is more than one trial, she will have to put on all of the evidence to prove the RICO charge in each one—in other words, trials with a subset of the defendants won’t take any less time.
Eastman argues, “Without Defendant Trump in the courtroom the U.S. Secret Service will not be involved in providing enhanced security, and the trials will proceed faster.” There’s never been any reason to believe, or even the whiff of a suggestion, that having the Secret Service in the courtroom will slow down Willis’ presentation of the evidence. But of course, Eastman has always thought he knows best. He has “I’m the smartest guy in the room” syndrome written all over him.
Take, for example, his website, the “John Eastman Legal Defense Fund,” where he has been relentlessly trying to crowdfund payment for his attorneys. He tells would-be contributors he needs their help because of his support for “election integrity” and “constitutional rights.”
Just to make sure you don’t miss the point, Eastman prominently features his ongoing loyalty to Trump. In a rambling personal manifesto that shifts from a third person narrative about “Dr. Eastman’s” good works to a first person complaint about how “they indicted me,” Eastman makes sure you, his would-be donor, are fully aware that he is still 100% behind Trump.
As if you need any more reminder of who John Eastman has always been, his pinned Tweet shows his fealty to Trump back during Mueller investigation days. If Trump says he’s brilliant, well golly, it must be the case. Eastman is firmly in Trump’s thrall—at least for now.
Eastman’s newest motion is awkwardly written. Although he doesn’t come out and say it, what he’s asking for is two separate trials for all remaining defendants, but not including Trump. Presumably Trump’s trial would happen alone, at some later date. Much later. After the election later.
There is no rationale for splitting the defendants into two groups for trial. It’s a device to get to the desired result: delaying Trump’s trial until after the election, given Eastman’s projected timeline. It’s a cute stunt, but not much more than that. Eastman is still carrying Trump’s water, perhaps in hopes of the Hail Mary of Trump saving him. While Trump could pardon him to end any threat of federal charges, it would be unprecedented for a president to interfere in a state criminal case. Eastman seems to have decided that sticking with Trump is his best bet. Given what we know about Trump’s plans to thwart democracy in 2025 if he’s elected, that thought is truly chilling.
As for Eastman’s motion to try the Fulton County case in two separate groupings, excluding Trump, legally, there’s no justification for the proposal. As we’ve discussed previously, there is a presumption that defendants who are indicted together should be tried together. Defendants who want to sever the trial of their case from other defendants must justify it by showing unfair prejudice unless the cases are separated. Here’s how I explained it when the issue of trying defendants separately in Fulton County first surfaced: “The Georgia Supreme Court has held for decades that a defendant seeking severance must make a clear showing that he will be harmed or prejudiced in the absence of a severance. Not any kind of small harm will do; the defendant has to show that it amounts to a denial of due process. So a defendant must persuade the court that trying him alongside a particular co-defendant ‘hinders a fair determination of each defendant's guilt or innocence.’”
No showing like that has been made here. Eastman has not even attempted it. His motion is a transparent effort to delay Trump’s trial and give his lawyers a preview of the District Attorney’s evidence. It’s hard to read this as anything other than a weak effort by Eastman to advance Trump’s agenda. And it’s certain that it will draw a strong protest from the District Attorney’s office. Nor is the Judge likely to have any illusion about what this is or indulge Eastman.
I’m looking forward to Friday’s hearing in Fulton County, where this issue of trial dates is likely to come up, although it may not be decided until a later date.
We’re in this together,
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