Politics

Emails show Trump, lawyers pushed claims of voter fraud they knew were false in federal court, judge says

Washington — Communications from conservative lawyer John Eastman show former President Donald Trump and his lawyers pushed claims of voter fraud he knew to be false in federal court and to the public in order to delay the counting of state electoral votes by Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, a federal judge in California said in an order Wednesday. 

The revelation from U.S. District Judge David O. Carter came as part of an ongoing legal battle between Eastman, a conservative lawyer behind the legal strategy to reject state electoral votes, and the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol over emails it subpoenaed from Eastman. 

Eastman has sought to keep the emails — from an account he used while serving as dean at Chapman University — from the select committee, asserting they are covered by attorney-client and work product privilege. Carter has been reviewing the records to determine whether Eastman’s privilege assertions apply to the materials sought by the House panel.

In his 18-page order, Carter focused on a subset of 536 documents protected by attorney-client and work product privileges, and whether they should be disclosed under the crime-fraud exception, which applies to documents and communications that were in furtherance of illegal or fraudulent conduct. The judge said the crime-fraud exception applies to eight communications, and he ordered all eight to be turned over to the select committee.

Four of the eight, Carter wrote, were documents “in which Dr. Eastman and other attorneys suggest that — irrespective of the merits — the primary goal of filing [lawsuits] is to delay or otherwise disrupt the January 6 vote.” 

He cites one email from Trump’s attorneys stating that “[m]erely 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,” Carter wrote. “The court finds that these four documents are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of the obstruction crime.”

The remaining four, the judge said, “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. The evidence confirms that this effort was undertaken in at least one lawsuit filed in Georgia.”

The order cites allegations pushed by Trump and his attorneys in a Dec. 4, 2020, filing to a Georgia state court that Fulton County improperly counted votes from dead people, felons and unregistered voters. 

The former president and his lawyers then filed a complaint in federal court citing the same numbers, even though Eastman had relayed “concerns” from Trump’s legal team “about including specific numbers in the paragraph dealing with felons, deceased, moved, etc,” Carter wrote, citing Eastman’s records.

Eastman, too, explained in a document reviewed by the court that Trump had been made aware that some of the allegations were inaccurate. 

“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. For him to sign a new verification with that knowledge (and incorporation by reference) would not be accurate,” Eastman wrote, according to Carter’s order.

The incorrect figures, though, were included in the former president’s lawsuit filed in federal court, Carter wrote.

“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. “The emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public. The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.”

Carter has previously held that Trump and Eastman “more likely than not committed obstruction of an official proceeding” — Congress’s Jan. 6 joint session — in violation of federal law, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.


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