Why 'coup lawyers' Giuliani and Eastman should face real accountability in 2023: columnist

Why 'coup lawyers' Giuliani and Eastman should face real accountability in 2023: columnist

After the January 6 Select Committee delivered its 845-page final report in December, countless articles by legal analysts focused on the possible repercussions for former President Donald Trump. The committee gave four criminal referrals to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which has the option of either following those recommendations or not following them.

During the months it spent conducting its in-depth investigation, the January 6 Committee not only examined Trump’s actions during the late 2020/early 2021 lame duck period, but also, the actions of Trump’s allies and associates — including attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John C. Eastman, both of whom were major promoters of Trump’s false, thoroughly debunked claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Liberal Washington Post opinion columnist Greg Sargent, in his January 5 column, lays out some reasons why Giuliani and Eastman may face “accountability” in 2023.

“You are probably familiar with the term ‘mob lawyer,’” Sargent explains. “It might now be time to inaugurate another, similar term: ‘coup lawyer.’ John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani were instrumental to the plotting and execution of President Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow his reelection loss, and they corruptly abused their knowledge of the law to that end. Will they ever face real accountability?”

READ MORE:Law professor’s Jan. 6 takeaway: the 'threat of political violence' is 'far from over'

The columnist continues, “Eastman and Giuliani are facing disciplinary proceedings and might even get disbarred. But if they are disciplined on overly narrow grounds — say, for making false statements — it would be a highly insufficient outcome. They should also face professional discipline that declares in some way that their efforts to undermine our constitutional order were central features of their unscrupulous professional misconduct.”

Giuliani has practiced law in New York State and the District of Columbia, while Eastman is licensed to practice law in California. But Sargent argues that in light of their efforts to help Trump overturn perfectly legitimate presidential election results in 2020, neither of them should be practicing law anywhere.

“In Giuliani’s case,” Sargent notes, “a New York court temporarily suspended him from practicing law for making false statements in court — his lies about the 2020 election — and the D.C. bar appears focused on that charge as well. In Eastman’s case, it is unclear what misconduct the California bar is weighing. But the option exists for disbarment on a broader basis, according to advocates urging this course of action. In California, New York and D.C., ethics rules provide for sanctions on the grounds of fundamental unfitness for the legal profession and deep contempt for the rule of law. Disbarment decisions should cite both lawyers’ efforts to help Trump subvert democracy as the basis for those violations.”

Giuliani wasn’t always the far-right MAGA Republican he is now. When he was serving as mayor of New York City during the 1990s and early 2000s, Giuliani (an ex-Democrat) had a reputation for being a moderate Republican who was pro-choice on the abortion issue, was favorable to gay rights, believed that the evangelical Christian Right was harmful to his party in swing states, and had no problem working out bipartisan deals with Democrats. In fact, Giuliani was featured as a speaker at the 2004 Republican National Convention in order to make then-President George W. Bush appear more moderate.

READ MORE: Revealed: Trump wanted 10,000 National Guard soldiers to protect him on walk to the Capitol on J6

But Giuliani kept moving more and more to the far right along the way. And during Trump’s four years in the White House, Giuliani was a full-fledged MAGA culture warrior and conspiracy theorist. Trump’s evolution is the focus of CNN’s documentary “Giuliani: What Happened to America’s Mayor?”, which is due to air this Sunday, January 8.

Sargent interviewed government ethics lawyer Norm Eisen for his column, and Eisen agrees that Giuliani and Eastman should face “discipline” for their post-election activities of late 2020 and early 2021.

Eisen told Sargent, “It’s important that any bar discipline encompasses the full range of that activity. This was an attempted coup, not using soldiers but using lawyers. We have not seen anything like this by attorneys in American history. The bar discipline needs to be equally extensive.”

READ MORE: One-third of the FBI's domestic terrorism investigations 'relate' to January 6th: report

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