Judge finds Trump likely to have conspired to defraud US with false election claims

Judge David Carter said four emails from Trump attorney John Eastman must be disclosed under the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 20 October 2022 00:36 BST
January 6 committee subpoenas Donald Trump

A federal judge in California has declared that emails from one of former president Donald Trump’s campaign attorneys should be disclosed to the House January 6 select committee because they pertain to a conspiracy to defraud the United States by submitting false claims as part of his effort to have courts overturn 2020 election results.

In an 18-page opinion and order published on Wednesday, US District Judge David Carter said emails from ex-Chapman University law professor John Eastman must be turned over because they show Mr Trump “knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public”.

Mr Eastman has for months been fighting to prevent the select committee from obtaining emails related to his involvement in Mr Trump’s push to reverse the results of the 2020 election and keep himself in the White House against the wishes of US voters.

The law professor had argued that the messages are protected by attorney-client privilege.

The California ruling acknowedged some emails were protected, but said others should go to Congress because they were likely evidence of and “sufficiently related to and in furtherance of the obstruction crime.”

Judge Carter wrote that four of the emails “demonstrate an effort by President Trump and his attorneys to press false claims in federal court for the purpose of delaying the January 6 vote,” including claims filed as part of a lawsuit in Georgia.

He describes the emails as containing Mr Trump’s “concerns”, as relayed by Mr Eastman, about having to include “specific numbers” in a signed declaration to be filed with the court.

The law professor had concerns of his own, writing to fellow Trump campaign officials that numbers they had previously relied on in a state court proceeding were inaccurate and shouldn’t be used once the case moved to federal court.

“Although the President signed a verification for [the state court filing] back on Dec. 1, he has since been made aware that some of the allegations (and evidence proffered by the experts) has been inaccurate,” Mr Eastman wrote in one email at issue. “For him to sign a new verification with that knowledge (and incorporation by reference) would not be accurate.”

Mr Trump and his campaign would rely on the numbers anyway.

“President Trump and his attorneys ultimately filed the complaint with the same inaccurate numbers without rectifying, clarifying, or otherwise changing them. President Trump, moreover, signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers ‘are true and correct’ or ‘believed to be true and correct’ to the best of his knowledge and belief,” the judge said in his ruling.

All told, the messages needed to be disclosed because they are “sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the ruling found.

The California ruling could impact investigations against Mr Trump’s election efforts from the Justice Department and Georgia prosecutors.

The Independent has contacted Mr Trump and Mr Eastman for comment.

Elsewhere in Wednesday’s holding, the court said the emails revealed the Trump campaign using lawsuits to try and stall the official acceptance of the 2020 election results.

Judge Carter pointed to an email where a Trump attorney said, “Merely having this case pending in the Supreme Court, not ruled on, might be enough to delay consideration of Georgia.”

“This email, read in context with other documents in this review, make clear that President Trump filed certain lawsuits not to obtain legal relief, but to disrupt or delay the January 6 congressional proceedings through the courts,” the magistrate’s ruling reads.

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