John Eastman, a far-right lawyer for then-President Donald Trump who wanted to block his electoral loss in 2020, is still withholding about 3,200 documents from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, according to a new court filing this week.
Eastman previously was ordered by the court to turn over 101 documents after he unsuccessfully tried to claim some of his emails from January 4 through January 7, 2021, were confidential legal communications related to Trump. Since then, Eastman has continued to work through nearly 100,000 pages of emails from his Chapman University account that the House Committee seeks from other dates around the election.
At this time, Eastman is arguing that the thousands of documents, comprising about 36,000 pages, should stay confidential.
Federal Judge David Carter in Santa Ana, California, may continue to weigh whether Eastman can keep those pages secret.
The judge’s previous decision giving the House access to more than 101 documents was a pivotal moment in the investigation and a setback for Eastman as he continues to try to keep secret some of his emails.
The ongoing Eastman lawsuit also is a reminder that the committee is still tied up in court on multiple fronts, fighting for their subpoenas to be fulfilled.
The House select committee obtained 101 emails two weeks ago that capture extensive discussions among Eastman and others about using court cases as a political argument to block Congress from certifying the vote, according to past proceedings in the court case.
One email, a draft memo for Rudy Giuliani, was obtained by the committee because the judge decided it was potentially being used to plan a crime. The memo recommended that then-Vice President Mike Pence reject some states’ electors during the January 6 congressional meeting.
“This may have been the first time members of President Trump’s team transformed a legal interpretation of the Electoral Count Act into a day-by-day plan of action,” Carter wrote.
“Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” the judge also wrote.
The judge ordered the release of the other emails in the batch because they weren’t about litigation, so they couldn’t be protected as the work of an attorney.
Carter’s reasoning was a startling acknowledgment by a federal court that Trump’s interest in overturning the election could be considered criminal. The House committee doesn’t have the ability to prosecute Trump or his allies, but the panel has toyed with formally asking the Justice Department to investigate. In the case, the House made the bold move of arguing Trump was trying to obstruct Congress and defraud the government by blocking his loss of the election and discussing it with Eastman, an argument Carter agreed with.
The state of California’s attorney regulators are reviewing Eastman’s legal ethics related to the election, and Trump and Eastman have not been charged with any crime.
“If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself,” the judge wrote.
Eastman did not appeal Carter’s ruling on the 101 documents.
The documents still in dispute are from Election Day 2020 up to January 4, 2021, and January 7 through Joe Biden’s inauguration two weeks later.