Exclusive: Trump is considering attorney who spoke at impeachment defense rally

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather for a rally in Washington

By Karen Freifeld (Reuters) – President Donald Trump may hire a law professor who spoke at his rally before the United States Capitol riots to help him defend him in impeachment for a charge that incited the violence, according to two people familiar with the matter. John Eastman, who joined Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on the scene of the Jan.6 rally, is being considered for a role on Trump’s defense team, the people said. Giuliani, 76, who told the crowd they should participate in a “trial by combat,” could lead the defense of the charge, Reuters reported Sunday, citing a source. Giuliani has not responded to requests for comment. Eastman, 60, who made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud at the rally, did not confirm or deny whether he will represent Trump, citing attorney-client privilege. When asked if he would be willing, Eastman said, “If the President of the United States asked me to consider helping him, I would certainly consider it.” The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Eastman and declined to comment on Giuliani. The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday made Trump the first U.S. president to be indicted twice, accusing him of inciting an insurrection as lawmakers sought to certify President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory in the Nov. 3 election. Eastman, the former Clerk of the United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, represented Trump last month in failed election challenges. At the rally, Eastman, who until Wednesday was a professor at Chapman University in California, spoke about the “secret folders” of ballots used to defraud the election before Trump took the stage and repeated the discredited claim that he had been stolen elections. Faculty members and students, among others, subsequently asked Chapman to fire Eastman. In a statement Wednesday, the university president said an agreement had been reached that Eastman would immediately withdraw from Chapman. Eastman told Reuters he did not believe he had done anything wrong. Nor does he believe Trump is guilty. “None at all,” he said. Eastman was criticized last summer for an opinion piece he wrote in Newsweek that questioned whether Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was eligible to serve because her parents were not US citizens or permanent residents. Newsweek later apologized for publishing the article. Trump may have a hard time retaining legal talent. He’s had trouble hiring lawyers since former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the widespread condemnation of the violence on Capitol Hill and pressure from anti-Trump groups may deter others from register. Trump was indicted by the Democratic-led House in 2019 on charges that he pressured the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation of his rival Biden, but was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in February 2020. Giuliani on Ukraine helped lead to Trump’s impeachment trial. White House attorney Pat Cipollone, who helped lead the defense effort during the Ukraine impeachment trial, is not expected to be involved in the latest effort, according to a person familiar with the matter. Cipollone will step down on January 20, when Biden becomes president. Jay Sekulow, another Trump personal attorney who played a role during the first impeachment trial, is also not expected to be involved. John Yoo, a conservative jurist who was also Thomas’s secretary and worked at the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration, said Wednesday that he did not believe Trump wanted him to represent him. “I think he committed acts of impeachment,” Yoo said, although he added that he thought the incitement was the wrong motive and that “the Senate should not convict him.”