Attorney John Eastman, a key architect of former President Donald Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 election, is preparing to provide another 10,000 pages of records to the Jan. 6 select committee, his attorney revealed late Friday.
It’s the latest breakthrough for congressional investigators in their ongoing fight to obtain details of Trump’s last-ditch plans to overturn his election loss.
Eastman had claimed attorney-client privilege over 37,000 pages of post-election emails related to his work for Trump. But under pressure from U.S. District Court Judge David Carter — who ruled in March that Eastman and Trump likely entered into a criminal conspiracy to overturn the election — Eastman withdrew privilege claims for nearly a third of that total.
In Friday’s court filing, Eastman’s lawyers indicated that the select committee now wants more time to consider how to handle the remaining 27,000 pages of records that remain in dispute. Carter has asked Eastman to produce a log of all the emails that remain contested, but Eastman is now asking Carter for a brief reprieve while the select committee reviews the new documents and determines how to proceed.
The committee’s legal fight to obtain Eastman’s records — all originally housed by his former employer, Chapman University — has been a top priority for the panel, which is fending off dozens of lawsuits from witnesses to Trump’s conduct in the aftermath of the election.
The panel has used the Eastman lawsuit, as well as litigation against former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, to reveal broad swaths of the evidence it has obtained showing Trump ignored overwhelming legal advice that he had been defeated. Their evidence also shows that Trump sat by on Jan. 6, 2021 as a mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol, waiting hours and continuing to press allies to block now-President Joe Biden’s victory even as he watched the violence unfold on TV.
Earlier this year, the committee subpoenaed Chapman University for all of Eastman’s emails sent between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021, amounting to more than 90,000 pages. Eastman sued the committee and Chapman in January to prevent the school from sharing his emails. Carter then ordered Eastman to review all of them and identify those he considered privileged.
In March, Carter issued a blockbuster ruling declaring that Trump and Eastman “more likely than not” committed a criminal conspiracy to obstruct the transition of power from Trump to Biden — and he ordered Eastman to produce a key subset of emails to the select committee, totaling a few hundred pages.
But the remaining dispute over Eastman’s emails is much broader and could take weeks to resolve.
Eastman is now asking Carter to permit him to demand more information from the select committee and from Chapman before making a ruling on the remaining 27,000 pages. He argues that Carter’s earlier ruling failed to account for evidence that many of Trump’s aides had convinced him that election fraud took place, and that Trump genuinely believed it. He cited testimony from former acting attorney general Jeff Rosen referencing that some of Trump’s advisers had pushed claims of election fraud even as the Justice Department had swatted them down.
“Such evidence is directly contrary to this Court’s March 28 finding that President Trump had been conclusively informed that there was no material fraud or illegality,” Eastman’s attorneys argue.
“A fair resolution of this case requires that all such evidence be put before the Court for consideration,” they continued. “Dr. Eastman therefore requests permission to serve a reasonable number of Requests for Admission, Requests for Documents, and Interrogatories on the congressional defendants.”
Eastman is asking Carter for at least two weeks to prepare legal arguments to maintain his claims of attorney-client privilege, with another several weeks for he and the select committee to submit subsequent legal briefs. That timeline could push the resolution of the fight into June or July.
Carter and the select committee have both argued that Trump’s purported belief in false theories of election fraud exceeded the bounds of credibility. While some aides sought to convince him that fraud occurred, Trump’s Justice Department, White House lawyers and campaign aides had pushed him for weeks to accept his defeat. Trump then turned to an increasingly fringe group of outside attorneys to support his theories, some of whom proposed extreme steps like seizing voting machines or pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to single-handedly overturn the election.
Trump’s pursuit of those efforts helped fuel supporters’ fury about the election results and drove many of them to descend on Washington on Jan. 6, when Trump called on them to “stop the steal.” Many of the rioters who breached the Capitol that day cited Trump’s repeated efforts to stoke distrust in the results of the election as the reason they marched on Congress.
The committee is preparing to hold at least eight public hearings in June outlining its evidence and findings so far, but the panel continues to be deluged with new information — prolonging its effort to bring the probe to a conclusion. The influx of 10,000 pages from Eastman — and the prospect of tens of thousands more — could be fodder for additional lines of inquiry for the select committee.
Eastman spent the final days before Jan. 6 pressuring Pence and his lawyers to accept a fringe theory that Pence could simply refuse to count Biden’s electoral votes in states Trump claimed were in dispute. He urged Pence to simply recess the Jan. 6 session and call on GOP-controlled state legislatures to consider rescinding Biden’s electors, a move that could have provoked an unprecedented national crisis.
Pence and his team rejected the notion that he had such legal authority and warned that Eastman was urging them to violate the Electoral Count Act, the 1887 statute that has governed the counting of electoral votes for the majority of the country’s history.