Pro-Trump Lawyer Pleads Not Guilty to Felony Charges in Arizona Elector Case

Attorney John Eastman was indicted for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona.
Pro-Trump Lawyer Pleads Not Guilty to Felony Charges in Arizona Elector Case
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, 2023. (Jae C. Hong, File/AP Photo)
Jana J. Pruet

Attorney John Eastman entered a plea of not guilty on Friday to conspiracy, fraud, and forgery charges for his alleged role in the effort to challenge the 2020 presidential election results.

Mr. Eastman, who is accused of devising a strategy to persuade Congress not to certify the election, was the first of 18 individuals charged in Arizona’s elector case to be arraigned.

In a brief statement outside the courthouse, Mr. Eastman denied all wrongdoing and said he believes he will be cleared of all charges.

“I had zero communications with the electors in Arizona [and] zero involvement in any of the election litigation in Arizona or legislative hearings,” he said. “And I am confident that with the laws faithfully applied, I will be fully exonerated at the end of this process.” He made no further comment.

Electors are people selected in each state to officially cast the state’s electoral votes within the U.S. Electoral College System during presidential elections.

Arraignments are scheduled for May 21 for 12 others charged in the case, including nine of the 11 Republicans who had submitted a document to Congress declaring former President Donald Trump the victor in Arizona.

According to the indictment, Mr. Eastman “encouraged the Republican electors to vote on December 14, 2020, and spread false claims of widespread election fraud.”

The document also claims Mr. Eastman unsuccessfully pressured the lawmakers to change the outcome of the Arizona election and that he met with then-Vice President Mike Pence and told him he could reject the Democratic electors in counting electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

Alternate Electors

The electors plan involved alternate electors from seven states where Joe Biden was declared the winner. They had pledged to support President Trump by casting their votes on Dec. 14, 2020, the scheduled date for electors from across the nation to meet at their respective state capitols to cast their votes.

Former President Trump was not charged in the case, is referred to in the documents as “unindicted co-conspirator 1” who “spread false claims of election fraud following the 2020 election.”

Charges have not been announced publicly against former New York City mayor and lawyer Rudi Giuliani, but he was easily identified based on descriptions of the defendants in the indictment. Authorities say they have been unable to serve Mr. Giuliani with the notice of charges; therefore, no arraignment date has been set for him.

Mark Meadows, former chief of staff for President Trump, is scheduled for arraignment on June 7.

In 2023, Mr. Eastman was indicted on racketeering and conspiracy, among other charges, for his alleged role in a plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. He has also pleaded not guilty to the charges in Georgia.

In Washington, a federal indictment filed against President Trump names Mr. Eastman as an indicted co-conspirator for allegedly working to overturn the 2020 election results in the days ahead of the incident at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Arizona is the fourth state where President Trump’s allies have been indicted for claiming the 2020 election results were marred by fraud.

The 11 people nominated to be Arizona’s Republican electors met in Phoenix on Dec. 14, 2020, to sign a certificate saying they were “duly elected and qualified” electors and claiming that President Trump was the state’s winner. The Arizona Republican Party posted a one-minute video of the signing ceremony on social media at the time.

The certificate was sent to Congress and the National Archives, where it was ignored.

The 11 alleged alternate electors from Arizona—Tyler Bowyer, Nancy Cottle, Jake Hoffman, Anthony Kern, Jim Lamon, Robert Montgomery, Samuel Moorhead, Loraine Pellegrino, Greg Safsten, Kelli Ward, and Michael Ward—each face nine felony counts.

Of the eight lawsuits challenging Arizona’s presidential election outcome, one was filed by one of the 11 alternate electors, who had asked a federal judge to de-certify the results and block the state of Arizona from sending results to the Electoral College.

The judge dismissed the case, citing the Republicans had “failed to provide the court with factual support for their extraordinary claims.” Within days of the case being dismissed, the 11 people signed the certificate.

Multiple in-person attempts have been made to serve Mr. Giuliani with the notice, but a doorman at his New York City apartment would not accept it on his behalf, according to Richie Taylor, a spokesman for Democratic Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, whose office is prosecuting the case. Mr. Taylor said the attorney general’s office has also been unsuccessful in reaching the former mayor by phone.

Caden Pearson contributed to this report.
Jana J. Pruet is an award-winning investigative journalist. She covers news in Texas with a focus on politics, energy, and crime. She has reported for many media outlets over the years, including Reuters, The Dallas Morning News, and TheBlaze, among others. She has a journalism degree from Southern Methodist University. Send your story ideas to: [email protected]