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President Donald Trump was so deeply involved in the desperate, last-ditch effort to overturn the 2020 election results that he hand-wrote strategy notes, hired at least ten lawyers to work on just one court case, and spoke regularly with one of his lead lawyers both directly and through six conduits.
John Eastman, the law professor tapped by Trump to craft a legal strategy to keep him in power, detailed those extensive communications in a new court filing late Thursday as he argued it should all be shielded from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection because of attorney-client privilege or attorney work product protections.
Eastman has been battling the House Committee in California federal court in an effort to prevent it accessing tens of thousands of pages of emails from his email address with Chapman University, where he worked as a law professor until shortly after the Capitol riot.
But U.S. District Court Judge David Carter has not been impressed with Eastman’s arguments thus far. In one blistering ruling from March in which he ordered Eastman to hand over 101 emails, Carter found that Eastman and Trump “more likely than not” committed a felony by trying to obstruct Congress and overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Thursday’s filing provided a new insight into the extraordinarily extensive effort to challenge the election result, one that began well before Americans even went to the polls and involved reams of emails flying back-and-forth between Trump, his attorneys, and other conduits.
Eastman’s filing says he was hired by Trump two months before the Nov. 3 election when he was invited by Trump attorney Cleta Mitchell “to join an Election Integrity Working Group to begin preparing for anticipated litigation.” Things “kicked into high gear” when he was asked to meet with a team in Philadelphia four days after the election to help prepare an election challenge, the filing says.
Of the 601 documents he’s trying to shield from the committee, Eastman argues that 113 contain privileged Trump-related communications, including communications between Eastman and Trump himself, or “six conduits” for Trump, three of whom had formal campaign roles.
Two of those documents are email attachments containing hand-written notes from Trump “about information that he thought might be useful for the anticipated litigation,” the filing says.
Eastman argues another 50 documents are covered by attorney-client privileges related to clients other than Trump, including “9 different clients or potential clients who were seeking Dr. Eastman’s legal advice regarding the constitutional authority of state legislatures to deal with election illegality and fraud.” They include state legislators, a party committeewomen, and a citizen coordinating information sessions for state legislators, the filing says, without including the names of those involved.
Eastman also argues that 557 of the 601 documents are covered under attorney work product protections, in part because they relate to work on a half-dozen court cases Team Trump filed—all of which were unsuccessful.
One of those cases, Texas v. Pennsylvania et al., in which Texas challenged several others states’ election protocols in the Supreme Court, Eastman says there were ten attorneys included on some emails who were “working on behalf of then-President Trump or his campaign committee directly” and three others assisting Eastman separately. (In a footnote, Eastman notes that at least one of those ten attorneys has since claimed he was not involved as co-counsel “after someone provided him with information from Dr. Eastman’s privilege log, which this Court had ordered to be filed under seal.”)
At least 46 documents detail communications between Eastman and “a group of statisticians working with him conducting statistical analyses of the Georgia Senate Runoff election in anticipation of election litigation that did not materialize,” the filing adds.
Eastman also argues that the work product protection should extend to a dozen emails he exchanged with an unnamed attorney, radio host and Claremont Institute fellow that Politico identified as Fox News host Mark Levin.
The filing shows Eastman is still deeply convinced the election was rife with fraud, and it lays out several claims that have mostly been debunked or thrown out of court. Among the evidence his lawyers present to back up that assertion is the “new documentary film by Dinesh D’Souza”—which, as The Daily Beast has reported, is so lax with the truth that even Fox News and Newsmax wouldn’t touch it.
“One might even say that the assertion of a ‘big lie’ is itself the actual big lie,” the filing argues.
But in the same breath, Eastman’s lawyers argue that Carter’s prior suggestion of illegal obstruction was wrong because Eastman and Trump were simply doing their constitutionally-protected due diligence, believing at the time it was “a legitimate attempt to prevent a stolen election.”
“Perhaps Dr. Eastman was wrong about that,” the filing says.