ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska state lawmaker accused of violating the state constitution’s disloyalty clause over his lifetime membership in the far-right group Oath Keepers has not condemned the organization in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S Capitol.
“No, I generally don’t condemn groups,” state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, said during a bench trial Thursday, his second day on the witness stand in a case that challenges his eligibility to hold office.
Eastman also said he doesn’t generally condemn individuals, including any of the 33 Oath Keepers who were charged following the attack on the Capitol, which coincided with the day Congress was certifying President Joe Biden’s win over the incumbent, former President Donald Trump.
Eastman was in Washington, D.C., on the day of the insurrection. He said he was there to see Trump’s speech on the Ellipse, an oval-shaped, federally owned patch of land near the White House, but said he did not take part in the riot.
He has not been charged with any crime, but a lawsuit alleges he is in violation of a provision in the Alaska Constitution that states anyone belonging to an organization that advocates for the overthrow of the U.S. government shall be disqualified from holding office. Eastman has said in court he paid $1,000 for a lifetime membership in the Oath Keepers, making $50 monthly installments.
Eastman won reelection last month but Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna ordered the state not to certify the election until after this trial ends.
Goriune Dudukgian, an attorney for an Anchorage civil rights firm representing a Wasilla man who brought the lawsuit, presented a Facebook post from Eastman that singled out antifa as a possible source of the violence.
“If you think that the members of antifa or any other groups who are assaulting police officers at the Capitol today were doing so because of something said by the president, then you know neither antifa nor the president,” the post read.
Dudukgian asked why he named antifa when Eastman didn’t name the Oath Keepers in the same post.
“I said that I generally don’t call out groups but on occasion, I do,” Eastman said.
Short for “anti-fascists,” antifa is not a single organization but rather an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that confront or resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations.
In another social media post nine days after the attack, Dudukgian said Eastman conflated the attack on the Capitol with election fraud.
The post read: “Those who broke the law in violating the integrity of our Capitol building should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those who broke the law in violating the integrity of our elections should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Dudukgian asked Eastman if it was correct that by Jan. 15, 2021, every court that looked at allegations of election fraud in the presidential election won had rejected it.
“No, actually, I think there were many courts that did not look at election fraud,” Eastman said. He later clarified the statement to say, “There were courts who were asked to look at election fraud and chose not to do so based on standing or some other technicality.”
When asked if Oath Keepers who breached the Capitol should be held responsible, he said anyone who violated the law should be prosecuted, even Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes. Rhodes was found guilty last month of seditious conspiracy and awaits sentencing.
Dudukgian asked Eastman if he believed Rhodes’ indictment was politically motivated.
“I think almost everything dealing with Jan. 6 has political motivations behind it, from one side or the other,” he said.
Eastman was then asked why he didn’t call out the Oath Keepers for their actions in the insurrection.
He said he’s called out everyone for their actions that day, and Oath Keepers fall into that broad category.
Dudukgian asked, “And you don’t see the need to call the Oath Keepers out by name?”
“No, I do not,” Eastman replied.
Rhodes was scheduled to be a witness for the defense, calling in from federal prison. However, he was not immediately available Thursday.
After Dudukgian rested for the plaintiffs, Eastman’s attorney, Joe Miller, asked the case be dismissed, which the judge rejected.