Former Pennsylvania State Sen. Bruce Marks, who worked alongside John Eastman as an attorney for Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, is speaking out against a left-leaning organization’s call for the California bar to investigate Eastman.
In an interview with The Pennsylvania Daily Star, Marks averred that Eastman was “completely right and completely wrong” in authoring memoranda on Vice President Mike Pence’s prospective role in certifying the 2020 Electoral College count. Marks said Eastman had a right to advise Trump and make his advice known to Pence, though the former lawmaker differed strongly with Eastman’s assertions about whether Pence could take action for a Trump win while presiding over the Senate’s count of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.
Eastman outlined scenarios in which Pence would have denied or delayed appointment of electors in seven states or invoked the Twelfth Amendment to have each state’s delegation in the House of Representatives resolve the issue. (Republicans controlled 26 of those state delegations.)
“The vice president doesn’t have discretion in the Constitution to do that,” Marks told The Daily Star. “It doesn’t follow my view at all.”
Marks’s work with Eastman pertained to another 2020-election matter, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Trump campaign disputing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to ignore several provisions of state law on mail-in ballots. Those included eliminating signature-verification requirements and rules for filling out ballots as well as the rights of campaigns to challenge mail-in ballots or to observe the canvassing process.
In pursuing the appeal, Marks said of Eastman, “I found him to be a very good lawyer.” He noted Eastman’s longstanding stature as a constitutional scholar. Until this year, Eastman was a Chapman University law professor and remains a senior fellow at the California-based Claremont Institute whose Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence he helped found. From 1996 to 1997, Eastman served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Marks said Eastman’s more strident critics should drop their request for the State Bar of California to subject Eastman to an ethics investigation. On Oct. 4, the left-leaning States United Democracy Center submitted a complaint to George Cardona, the state bar’s office of chief trial counsel, to consider a probe into Eastman’s electoral-count advice that States United called “anti-democratic” and “false or deceptive, in multiple respects.”
“It’s extremely dangerous that partisan people are attacking a lawyer for giving legal advice,” Marks said. He denounced the States United effort as “cancel culture” and suggested that if bar associations punished legal counsel for offering legal input, that could have a chilling effect on other attorneys handling unpopular cases or advising controversial clients.
Marks said he believes the push to investigate Eastman owes not to legal or ethical concerns but to political ones.
“It has the veneer of being bipartisan, but it isn’t. These are people who are still committed against former President Donald Trump.”
Indeed, States United frequently trumpets its supposed bipartisan credentials, though the organization’s policy agenda and leadership bend decisively leftward. Its Executive Chair Norman Eisen, a retired ambassador to the Czech Republic, and its Chief Executive Officer Joanna Lydgate, a former chief deputy attorney general of Massachusetts, both have worked in Democratic politics.
Moreover, of the 25 signatories to the complaint against Eastman, 22 of them have backgrounds in either Democratic politics or left-wing advocacy. The three exceptions are former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican who publicly supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 and Joe Biden for president in 2020; John Farmer, a Republican former New Jersey attorney general who once served as chief counsel to Whitman; and Fern Smith, a retired Ronald Reagan-appointed federal judge.
States United has furthermore eroded its claim to transcend the political divide inasmuch as it supports the enactment of House Resolution 1, which supporters call the “For the People Act.” The legislation containing radical changes to election law and campaign-finance rules has no support from any GOP members of Congress and is even opposed by the liberal American Civil Liberties Union which argues the bill would restrict free speech.
And while States United’s advisory board includes some Republicans like former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Marks said their presence doesn’t save the group from imputations of partisanship. He noted that while he has “great respect for Tom Ridge” and “thought he was a good governor generally,” Ridge did not undertake any major reforms for election integrity when he was in office from 1995 to 2001 and openly opposed Trump. Marks said that is despite damning evidence of voter fraud having emerged in Pennsylvania in the early 1990s.
Marks faced that fraud problem directly when he ran against Democrat William Stinson in a special election for Pennsylvania’s 2nd Senate District in Philadelphia in 1993. The machine vote count favored Marks by 562 votes, but the absentee ballots which were added to the county subsequently favored Stinson, 1,391 to 366.
Though Stinson was sworn in on Nov. 18, 1993, Marks filed suit in federal court. Investigation by Marks and The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as probes by both federal and state prosecutors determined that almost one thousand of Stinson’s votes were tainted by a fraud scheme implicating the Democratic candidate and the two Democratic City Commissioners who oversaw elections in Philadelphia.
The federal court removed Stinson from office and Marks was subsequently sworn in as the winner of the legal votes to serve the remainder of the Senate term. Since that time, he has worked as an attorney in Philadelphia and Moscow and was part of the Trump campaign’s 2016 legal team. He continues to advocate for election-integrity measures in Pennsylvania.
States United for Democracy did not return a request for comment.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Bruce Mark” by Bruce Mark. Photo “John Eastman” by Jeastman CC BY-SA 4.0. Background Photo “Mike Pence” by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0.