Who is John Eastman, the California lawyer ensnared in the Jan. 6 investigation?

John Eastman stands outside near people holding U.S. flags and signs.
John Eastman, a lawyer involved in former President Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss.
(Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, June 13. I’m Justin Ray. Writing this newsletter has been a fun ride.

The Jan. 6 select committee hearing Thursday brought bombshell allegations. A future hearing will be dedicated to the efforts former President Trump and California lawyer John Eastman made to get Vice President Mike Pence to prevent Biden from taking office.

So who is Eastman, and what is his alleged role in the Capitol insurrection? Here’s what you should know.

Who is Eastman, and why is he in hot water?


Eastman clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas before he joined the faculty at Chapman University, where he taught for 21 years and served a three-year tenure as dean. He also is a longtime leader at right-wing think tank Claremont Institute. He also founded the affiliated law firm Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, which represents conservative clients.

House General Counsel Douglas Letter called Eastman the “central player in the development of a legal strategy to justify a coup.” In a larger profile of Eastman, The Times explains that the House committee is looking closely into two legal memos Eastman wrote. They explained to then-Vice President Mike Pence steps he could take to help Trump retain his presidency.

Last week, a judge ordered Eastman to turn over 159 additional emails to the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Eastman has attempted to impede the House from obtaining his emails, claiming them as protected attorney-client communications. The committee has argued in court that it would not apply to evidence demonstrating crime or fraud.

Eastman’s California fallout

Eastman spoke at the pro-Trump rally that took place not too long before the violent Capitol riot. During his speech, he pushed the false claim that “secret folders” inside ballot-counting machines swayed the presidential and Georgia Senate race results in Democrats’ favor.

At the time, Eastman was still employed by Chapman University. More than 160 Chapman faculty members signed a letter calling for the university to take action against him. Eventually, Eastman and the university parted ways after the two sides reached agreement that he would retire immediately.


In March, the State Bar of California announced it was investigating Eastman to determine “whether Eastman engaged in conduct in violation of California law and ethics rules governing attorneys following and in relation to the November 2020 presidential election.”

When a group of prominent lawyers — including former governors and judges — asked the California bar to launch such an investigation, Eastman said that, “I trust the bar association will see this as the politically motivated and defamatory attack on my legal representation of a controversial client that it is and summarily dismiss it. But if not, I look forward to responding in full to every false assertion.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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A California man’s journey to kill U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. An armed Simi Valley man was arrested near Kavanaugh’s home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. We now know more details about Nicholas Roske, such as what he discussed with 911 dispatchers before being arrested, and his life before the incident took place. Los Angeles Times

Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh stands near a U.S. flag
Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh stands before a ceremonial swearing-in in the East Room of the White House.


Whom did your neighborhood vote for in the L.A. mayoral primary? This interactive map reveals how people voted in the recent election. Just put in your address. Los Angeles Times

A violent gang, an FBI informant and the truth behind one of L.A.’s deadliest fires. The trial of a former L.A. gang member for the deaths of 10 in a 1993 apartment building fire was a step back to a time when gangs turned entire blocks into drug bazaars. Perhaps the most shocking truth that has been unveiled was the reason why the gang ordered that the building in Los Angeles’ Westlake neighborhood be set ablaze. Los Angeles Times

A man cries on the street after walking away from a child victim of an apartment fire.
A man cries after walking away from a child victim of an apartment fire that killed 10 people in the Westlake district in 1993.
(J. Albert Diaz / Los Angeles Times)

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California’s ‘red flag’ law used for 58 threatened mass shootings. A new study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis examines the first three years of the state’s Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2016. It allows people to work with a judge to temporarily remove another person’s access to firearms and ammunition. The research shows that mass shooting threats occurred in almost 30% (58 cases) of all GVROS during this period. Six involved minors, all of whom targeted schools. UC Davis


Two people were arrested after an alleged gang-related shooting at a public library. The San Jose Police Department said Raul Hernandez, 20, and an unnamed 14-year-old boy were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Police said the victim was chased into Hillview Branch Library. KTVU


Want to do less time? A prison consultant might be able to help. Last winter, federal agents handcuffed Hugo Mejia in Ontario, Calif., for bitcoin money laundering. Mejia hired someone who was able to help him navigate the process of going behind bars. Prison consultants are able to help people who will be incarcerated influence things like where they will be locked up, how they will most productively spend their time while there, and even how long their sentences will be. New York Times

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The latest solution to wildfires in California: goats. The buildup of dead vegetation, along with the effects of climate change, has accelerated the trend of devastating wildfires. Land managers have typically used human labor to thin plants and brush, but access to certain areas can be challenging. That’s why goats are increasingly being used to clear vegetation. National Geographic


Journalist Yashar Ali has filed a defamation lawsuit against Los Angeles Magazine one year after the publication ran a nearly 6,000-word feature that he says labeled him as someone who “backstabbed his friends.” Los Angeles Times

CRT, Trumpism and doubt roil Biola University. Is this the future of evangelical Christianity? The private Christian university in La Mirada has attempted to shelter its students and itself from recent social and civil disturbances, but its efforts have been marginally successful. For instance, an article published after the Jan. 6 insurrection on its student-run news site was called “propaganda,” and “racist and trash” by readers. Los Angeles Times

A person rides a scooter by a 30-foot "The Word" mural of Jesus Christ holding out a Bible.
A person rides by a 30-foot “The Word” mural of Jesus Christ holding out a Bible at Biola University in La Mirada.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

A $60-million Spotify deal made her the highest-paid female podcast host on the planet. Now with “Call Her Daddy,” Alexandra Cooper is fathering a generation. “There’s this assumption that making a podcast is easy, but it’s a lot of f—ing work. I take it with great pride that my whole life revolves around it,” Cooper says. Los Angeles Times

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Today’s California memory is from Lynn Hedani:

Born in 1957, I am a life-long southern Californian. My older sisters and I adored the LA Dodgers and each of us was “married” to a player: sister #1 to the great Sandy Koufax (of course); sister #2 to all-star Wally Moon; and I to big man Don Drysdale. I remember my first trip to watch a game as a 6-year-old, and standing at the rail awe-struck by the green green grass and red red infield of the magnificent new Dodger Stadium. The memory still sends shivers of delight down my spine.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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