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Attorney John Eastman pleads not guilty to felony charges in Arizona’s fake elector case

PHOENIX (AP) — Attorney John Eastman pleaded not guilty on Friday to conspiracy, fraud and forgery charges for his role in the effort to overturn Donald Trump’s loss in Arizona to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Eastman, who devised a strategy to try to persuade Congress not to certify the election, is the first person charged in Arizona’s fake elector case to be arraigned.

Eastman made a brief statement outside the courthouse, saying the charges against him should have never been filed.

“I had zero communications with the electors in Arizona (and) zero involvement in any of the election litigation in Arizona or legislative hearings. And I am confident that with the laws faithfully applied, I will be fully be exonerated at the end of this process,” Eastman said. He declined to make further comment.

Arraignments are scheduled May 21 for 12 other people charged in the case, including nine of the 11 Republicans who had submitted a document to Congress falsely declaring Trump had won Arizona.

The Arizona indictment said Eastman encouraged the GOP electors to cast their votes in December 2020, unsuccessfully pressured state lawmakers to change the election’s outcome in Arizona and told then-Vice President Mike Pence that he could reject Democratic electors in the counting of electoral votes in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump himself was not charged in the Arizona case but was referred to as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Charges have not yet been made public against Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Trump-aligned attorney, but he was readily identifiable based on descriptions of the defendants in the indictment. No arraignment date has been scheduled for Giuliani. Arizona authorities say they have been unable to serve Giuliani with the notice of the charges.

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows is scheduled to be arraigned on June 7.

Last year, Eastman was indicted on racketeering, conspiracy and other charges in a scheme to overturn the 2020 president election in Georgia. He has pleaded not guilty to the Georgia charges. Eastman also is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the sprawling federal indictment filed in Washington against Trump for working to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the run-up to the violent riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol.

Arizona is the fourth state where allies of the former president have been charged with using false or unproven claims about voter fraud related to the election.

The 11 people who had been 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 Trump carried the state. A one-minute video of the signing ceremony was posted on social media by the Arizona Republican Party at the time. The document was later sent to Congress and the National Archives, where it was ignored.

Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes.

Of the eight lawsuits that unsuccessfully challenged Biden’s victory in the state, one was filed by the 11 fake Arizona 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. In dismissing the case, the judge concluded the Republicans had “failed to provide the court with factual support for their extraordinary claims.” Days after that lawsuit was dismissed, the 11 participated in the certificate signing.

Multiple in-person attempts were made to serve Giuliani with the notice but a doorman at his New York City apartment wouldn’t accept it, said Richie Taylor, a spokesperson for Democratic Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, whose office is prosecuting the case. Taylor said efforts by the attorney general’s office to reach Giuliani by phone also were unsuccessful.



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