First Trump co-defendants in Georgia election case surrender at Fulton jail

Scott Hall and John Eastman are first of 18 co-defendants indicted alongside ex-president to surrender to face charges.

Former Trump adviser John Eastman
Lawyer John Eastman says the Georgia indictment accusing him, former US President Donald Trump and 17 others of seeking to disrupt the 2020 election results in the state 'should never have been brought' [File: Jae C. Hong/AP Photo]

The first co-defendants indicted alongside former US President Donald Trump this month over a campaign to overturn the 2020 United States election results in Georgia have surrendered at a jail in Atlanta.

Scott Hall, a bail bondsman and Republican poll watcher in Georgia, and former Trump lawyer John Eastman surrendered on Tuesday morning to face the charges against them at the Fulton County jail.

Prosecutors in the southern US state indicted Trump and 18 co-defendants last week, using a law typically associated with mobsters to accuse the group of plotting to “unlawfully change the outcome” of the 2020 vote.

Hall has been accused of being involved in a voting systems breach that prosecutors say took place in Coffee County, southeast of Atlanta, in early 2021, while Eastman is accused of being instrumental in a plan to keep Trump in power.

“I am here today to surrender to an indictment that should never have been brought,” Eastman said in a statement released through his lawyers on Tuesday morning, denying any wrongdoing in the case.

“I am confident that, when the law is faithfully applied in this proceeding, all of my co-defendants and I will be fully vindicated,” he said.

INTERACTIVE - Who are Trumps 18 codefendants-1692096022
[Al Jazeera]

Georgia prosecutors have given the co-defendants until Friday to voluntarily surrender to the Fulton County Jail, where authorities will take their photographs, fingerprints and personal information.

Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing in the case, has said he plans to turn himself in on Thursday.

“Can you believe it? I’ll be going to Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday to be ARRESTED by a Radical Left District Attorney, Fani Willis,” the former president and frontrunner for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination wrote on his Truth Social platform this week.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Atlanta on Tuesday, noted that Trump’s surrender will take place a day after his challengers for the GOP nomination participate in the first 2024 presidential primary debate.

“If anyone has done well [in the debate], the media aren’t going to be talking about that simply because [Trump is] going to soak up all of the oxygen” with his surrender in Atlanta, Fisher said.

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination, has repeatedly hit out against Georgia officials, accusing them of conducting a “witch hunt” that aims to derail his re-election bid.

Georgia case

The Georgia case marks the second indictment against Trump over 2020 election interference, and the fourth time he has been criminally charged so far this year.

He was indicted on federal election interference charges in early August, as well as on federal charges of mishandling classified documents in June. He also faces a state-level prosecution in New York linked to a hush-money payment made to a porn star.

Trump pleaded not guilty in the first three cases and is expected to do the same in the Georgia indictment, which came after a years-long investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to alter the presidential election results in the state.

The probe was launched in January 2021 after Trump asked Georgia’s top election official to “find 11,780 votes” to turn the election in his favour after his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, had won.

The Georgia indictment accuses Hall, the bail bondsman, of taking part in a conspiracy to illegally access voter data in early January 2021.

Eastman, a former dean of Chapman University law school in Southern California, was a close adviser to Trump in the run-up to the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol, where a mob of Trump supporters sought to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory.

Eastman wrote a memo laying out steps Vice President Mike Pence could take to interfere in the counting of electoral votes while presiding over Congress’ joint session on January 6 in order to keep Trump in office.

The indictment also accuses Eastman and others of pushing to put in place a slate of “alternate” electors falsely certifying that Trump won, and of trying to pressure Pence into rejecting or delaying the counting of legitimate electoral votes for Biden.

Two other defendants, former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark and former Georgia Republican Party chair David Shafer, have filed paperwork to transfer the case to federal court.

Lawyers for Clark argued in a court filing on Monday that he was a high-ranking Justice Department official and the actions described in the indictment “relate directly to his work at the Justice Department as well as with the former President of the United States”.

Lawyer John Eastman (left) gestures at a rally next to former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani
John Eastman (left) gestures next to former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at a rally in Washington, DC just before the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021 [File: Jim Bourg/Reuters]

Shafer’s lawyers argued that his conduct “stems directly from his service as a Presidential Elector nominee”, actions they say were “at the direction of the President and other federal officers”.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows last week made similar arguments in a federal court filing, saying his actions were taken in service to his White House role.

Meanwhile, a Georgia judge on Monday approved a $200,000 bond agreement for Trump, according to court filings.

The agreement set out strict rules for Trump’s behaviour in the lead-up to the trial, barring him from making any “direct or indirect thread” against those involved in the case, among other things.

“The Defendant shall perform no act to intimidate any person known to him or her to be codefendant or witness in this case or to otherwise obstruct the administration of justice,” the bond order reads.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies