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Trump Attorney Ordered To Turn Over More Emails To January 6 Committee—Including Possible Evidence Of A Crime

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Attorney John Eastman, who worked with former President Donald Trump on his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, has to turn over more than 150 documents to the House January 6 Committee by Wednesday, a federal judge ruled late Tuesday—including an email that the judge said contains evidence of a possible crime.

John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 16, 2017.

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Key Facts

U.S. District Court Judge David Carter ordered Eastman to turn over 159 documents to the committee by 2:00 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday, while another 440 are shielded under attorney-client privilege.

One of the emails Eastman has to disclose is because of the “crime-fraud exception,” which is when a document that would otherwise be covered under attorney-client privilege has to be turned over because the “communications are ‘sufficiently related to’ and were made ‘in furtherance of’” a crime.

The email in question shows Eastman advising Trump’s legal team not to file a lawsuit related to Congress counting the electoral votes on January 6, because a negative court ruling “would ‘tank the January 6 strategy,’” which could violate the law by showing Trump planned to “delay or stop the electoral count.”

The documents also show Trump and Eastman planned to disrupt Congress’ electoral vote counting as early as December 7, 2020, when Eastman forwarded Trump a memo “explaining why January 6 was the ‘Hard Deadline’ that was ‘critical to the result of this election.’”

Other documents being handed over to the committee include documents related to the Trump campaign’s “fake electors” scheme and emails related to multiple meetings Eastman had with an unnamed right-wing group with a “high-profile leader” about efforts to overturn the election.

The ruling pertained to one tranche of documents out of thousands Eastman had been trying to shield from the House committee and came after Carter had previously ordered Eastman to turn over other documents in earlier rulings, including one in March that found Eastman and Trump’s efforts to overturn the election “more likely than not” constituted illegal obstruction.

Crucial Quote

The email that had to be disclosed under the crime-fraud exception “cemented the direction of the January 6 plan,” Carter wrote. “The Trump legal team chose not to seek recourse in court—instead, they forged ahead with a political campaign to disrupt the electoral count. Lawyers are free not to bring cases; they are not free to evade judicial review to overturn a democratic election.”

What To Watch For

The House January 6 committee will kick off a series of public hearings on Thursday to show the evidence it’s gathered over the court of the committee’s investigation, which will likely include Eastman and his efforts to help Trump overturn the vote count.

Tangent

Among the other emails Eastman claimed were shielded under attorney-client privilege are several that Carter noted are just “news articles or photos” Trump’s assistant sent to Eastman and Eastman “does not explain how these seek legal advice.” “Although Dr. Eastman’s privilege log claims that the photo is President Trump’s ‘handwritten note re issues for anticipated litigation,’ the note simply celebrates the size of President Trump’s campaign rallies,” Carter wrote, forcing those documents to be disclosed.

Key Background

Eastman, a conservative legal scholar, advised Trump in the aftermath of the 2020 election—primarily about January 6 and efforts to contest Congress’ vote count—though Politico notes it’s unclear when exactly Trump formally became Eastman’s client and their communications became privileged. He also spoke at the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol building. The House January 6 committee subpoenaed Eastman in November and CNN reports he declined to answer nearly 150 questions in his testimony to the committee, invoking his protections under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. The State Bar of California is investigating Eastman to determine whether his post-election efforts violated California law and attorney ethics rules, it said in March.

Further Reading

Lawyer Who Drafted Plan To Overturn 2020 Election Is Under Investigation By California Bar (Forbes)

Trump ‘More Likely Than Not’ Illegally Tried To Obstruct Election, Federal Judge Says (Forbes)

‘Big Lie’ Proponent John Eastman Uses Christian Crowdfunding Site To Raise Money For His Legal Bills (Forbes)

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