Trump lawyer pleaded the fifth on 146 Capitol riot questions

·2-min read
Former Chapman University law professor John Eastman, next to US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani (REUTERS)
Former Chapman University law professor John Eastman, next to US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani (REUTERS)

Former professor and Trump lawyer John Eastman, who spoke to a crowd of supporters at the “Stop the Steal” rally on 6 January, has invoked his constitutional protection rights against self-incrimination nearly 150 times, according to reports.

Dr Eastman is among a number of those in Trump’s circle who have pleaded the Fifth Amendment, after receiving subpoenas relating to the insurrection on 6 January. According to CNN, Dr Eastman refused to answer questions 146 times.

“Dr Eastman has a more than reasonable fear that any statements he makes pursuant to this subpoena will be used in an attempt to mount a criminal investigation against him,” Mr Eastman’s lawyer, Charles Burnham, told the 6 January committee in a letter on Wednesday. However, a federal judge on Monday ordered Dr Eastman to respond to another committee subpoena – one sent to his former employer, Chapman University.

With his lawyer, Dr Eastman has worked to try and block Chapman University from handing over approximately 19,000 emails to the committee. The new order means the 6 January committee will likely gain access to the information it needs.

Mr Trump has previously said pleading the Fifth Amendment is comparable to mob behaviour. As a political candidate in 2016, he said: "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" Around the same time, Hillary Clinton used the defence in regards to her private email server. "The mob takes the Fifth,” added Mr Trump.

Dr Eastman met Mr Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on 3 January in the lead up to the "Stop the Steal" rally, at which he spoke to a Washington DC crowd of approximately 10,000 people.

“We know there was fraud,” and “dead people voted,” claimed Dr Eastman of the 2020 presidential election, while next to another former Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who has also recently been subpoenaed.

Mr Giuliani called for “trial by combat” at the rally. He has since denied inciting violence, claiming his remark was in reference to the fictional show Game of Thrones. Mr Giuliani’s lawyers have said the remark was “clearly hyperbolic and not literal”.

The 6 January Committee has issued more than 60 subpoenas to seek: “Facts about the planning, coordination, and funding of events that preceded the violent attack on our democracy”, said Mississippi Representative and Chairman of the Committee Bennie Thompson in a statement.

Those who have received subpoenas include Trump’s former advisor Stephen Bannon, his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump's son Eric among others.

The Capitol was attacked on 6 January after a Trump rally. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” said Mr Trump in a rally speech. Five people lost their lives as a result of the insurrection.