Off and on since June, John Eastman has appeared in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom as California Bar attorneys build the case that he is unfit to practice law.
Eastman, a former dean of the Chapman University Law School and adviser to former President Trump, is accused of ethics violations for peddling false claims that fraud cost Trump the presidency.
Eastman maintains that he had good faith reasons to doubt the results of the 2020 election. The man Eastman called as his first witness last week, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, claimed that the election had been stolen, although his own tortured investigation found no evidence that fraud tilted the election in Joe Biden’s favor.
The witness, Michael Gableman, admitted he had no experience in election law when the Republican leader of the Wisconsin Assembly chose him in 2021 to lead a taxpayer-funded investigation into the election. Gableman also admitted that he had “no understanding of how elections work.”
His 14-month investigation turned into a debacle, costing taxpayers more than $1 million and drawing derision from both parties. The report he produced found illegalities in the Wisconsin election, although Biden’s 21,000-vote victory in the state withstood multiple legal challenges, a recount and a nonpartisan audit .
In his report and in his testimony to the state bar, Gableman focused on grants Wisconsin municipalities received from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The money was intended to make voting easier amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and much of it went to Wisconsin’s five largest cities — often referred to as “the Zuckerberg 5” in Gableman’s report — in regions Democratic leaning.
Gableman’s report called it a ploy to get Democrats elected and called it election corruption. However, the Center for Tech and Civic Life said it awarded grants to every election office that applied, more than 200 across Wisconsin, large and small. And federal courts have repeatedly ruled that the subsidies do not violate the law.
In cross-examining Gableman last week in Eastman’s lawsuit, Duncan Carling, an attorney representing the State Bar of California, asked Gableman if there had been any successful legal challenges to the CTCL grants.
“Not yet,” Gableman replied.
Was he aware of court findings that grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life violated a Wisconsin law?
“Not yet,” Gableman repeated.
Did Gableman find evidence that Wisconsin voting machines were manipulated for fraudulent purposes?
“If I had found it, I would have put it in my report,” he said.
Among his other claims, Gableman said Wisconsin lacked safeguards to prevent noncitizens from voting. Did he find evidence that non-citizens had actually voted, he was asked?
“It was impossible for us to do this investigation,” Gableman said, saying his investigation was hampered by political reasons.
In Wisconsin, controversy dogged Gableman’s examination of partisan elections from start to finish. Contributing to its costs: about $260,000 spent on court-ordered legal fees in lawsuits filed by a liberal watchdog group. At one point, Gableman refused to answer questions in a Wisconsin circuit court, and the judge found him in contempt for flouting the state’s public records law.
Gableman’s manner during Eastman’s state bar trial drew more than one reprimand from Judge Yvette Roland. She once warned him to avoid a “rant.” Another time she said, “Don’t interrupt me or roll your eyes.” …If anyone knows how to behave in a courtroom, it should be you.
Eastman’s attorney argued for Gableman to be admitted as an election law expert. Roland ruled that he possessed no such expertise.
Eastman’s live trial has been happening on and off throughout the summer, and he will continue to present his defense on Tuesday. The threat of delisting is not its only concern. Along with Trump and 17 others, Eastman faces criminal charges in Fulton County, Georgia, for election-related schemes.
Eastman has a GiveSendGo page, where he posts updates about his state bar trial and accuses “hard-core left-wing activists” of targeting him. The page says it has raised $525,250, with a goal of $750,000.