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RACHEL MADDOW

Republican reps pay for notorious Team Trump lawyer’s counsel

Given the seriousness of the controversies surrounding John Eastman, it’s tempting to think the Republican lawyer would quietly retreat to the sidelines. That’s clearly not happening.

As recently as a month ago, Eastman was in Wisconsin, meeting with the Republican Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, reportedly urging the legislator to decertify the results of the 2020 election — a step that is not legally possible, even if it were warranted, which in this case it’s not.

ABC News recently quoted an activist who was on hand for the meeting, saying that Eastman pushed for “either a do over [election] or having a new slate of electors seated that would declare someone else the winner.”

As ridiculous as this story appears, Eastman didn’t deny its accuracy. On the contrary, he seemed to confirm that the meeting occurred, though he added last week that the details of the conversation must remain “confidential.”

It was against this backdrop that Politico reported on Friday about two high-profile Republican members of Congress paying for Eastman’s legal counsel.

Put America First, a joint fundraising committee run by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), paid at least $25,000 for legal services since September to the Constitutional Counsel Group. That’s the law firm of John Eastman, a onetime legal adviser to former President Donald Trump.

According to the report, Greene’s and Gaetz’s joint fundraising committee paid Eastman’s firm three times — in September 2021, December 2021, and January 2022 — though as Politico noted, it’s “unclear what Eastman’s firm is doing for the lawmakers.”

In theory, there’s sometimes a distinction between paying a lawyer and paying the lawyer’s firm, though in this case, Greene’s campaign issued a written statement confirming the arrangement with the highly controversial attorney.

“Dr. Eastman is one of the leading constitutional attorneys in the country,” the Georgia Republican’s team said. “When we need advice on significant constitutional issues, we have occasionally sought his counsel. The particular issues for which we sought his advice are protected by attorney-client privilege, however.”

It’s difficult to say with any confidence what kind of legal advice Eastman may have provided. Both Greene and Gaetz have been dealing with some legal issues — the Floridian is facing a criminal investigation while the Georgian’s ballot qualifications have been challenged — but it’s possible that the payments are unrelated.

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What’s striking to me about these revelations, however, is the fact that Eastman’s legal counsel is still sought at all.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, it was in the summer of 2020 when Eastman published a bizarre piece that argued that Vice President Kamala Harris was ineligible for national office because her parents immigrated to the United States. Soon after, he began working with Trump — the then-president saw him on Fox News and was impressed — and as part of that work, Eastman filed a brief in December 2020 on Trump’s behalf that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 presidential election. (It was filled with factual errors — including an obvious one literally on the first page.)

Soon after, he authored what’s become known as the Eastman Memo, which effectively outlined how Republicans could execute something resembling a post-election coup.

This, naturally, made him a witness of great interest to the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, but when Eastman sat down with congressional investigators, the Republican lawyer reportedly pleaded the Fifth — by some accounts, nearly 150 times.

The panel proceeded to subpoena Eastman’s records, most notably the emails from his time working with Trump to overturn the election. The Republican lawyer tried to block that effort, claiming the materials were protected by attorney-client privilege.

It led the Jan. 6 committee to argue that communications between attorneys and clients are not protected if they’re discussing committing crimes. Three weeks ago, a federal judge agreed, concluding, “Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”

It’s against this extraordinary backdrop that Eastman isn’t just running around trying to overturn Trump’s defeat — 17 months after Election Day — he’s picking up sizable checks from a joint fundraising committee run by two of Congress’ most outlandish members.

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