A federal judge suggested Wednesday that former President Donald Trump committed criminal fraud by knowingly making false voting claims under oath, with the judge ordering a Trump attorney to turn over documents to the January 6 Committee because they were made “in furtherance of a crime.”
U.S. District Judge David Carter ordered Eastman, a right-wing attorney and legal scholar who aided Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, to turn over 33 documents to the House committee by October 28 (out of 561 that Eastman claimed were privileged).
Eight of the emails had to be turned over because of a “crime-fraud” exception, which applies when documents are covered by attorney-client privilege but a “client consults an attorney for advice that will serve [them]
in the commission of a fraud or crime,” or when the documents themselves are “sufficiently related to” and were made “in furtherance of” the crime.
Four emails show that Trump signed a legal document under oath attesting that thousands of votes were fraudulently counted in Fulton County, Georgia, and those numbers were “true and correct,” despite Eastman noting in an email the then-president was “made aware” the allegations and evidence behind them was inaccurate.
The emails over those fraud allegations—which Trump’s legal team also alleged were accurate in a lawsuit objecting to the 2020 election results—are “sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States” and thus have to be turned over, Carter ruled.
Other documents that were covered by the crime-fraud exception show that Trump and his attorneys filed lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results “not to obtain legal relief, but to disrupt or delay the January 6 congressional proceedings through the courts,” which Carter ruled were in furtherance of obstruction of justice.
Eastman’s attorney Charles Burnham has not yet responded to a request for comment.
“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,” Carter ruled.
What To Watch For
The House January 6 Committee is expected to release a final report on its investigation by the end of the year—when the committee will be dissolved—which would include any findings from Eastman’s emails. As a congressional committee, the lawmakers cannot themselves indict Trump or Eastman with any crimes, but they can refer any evidence of a crime to the Justice Department, which is separately investigating the attempts to overturn the 2020 election and can bring charges.
Carter’s ruling Wednesday in the latest in a series of rulings he’s issued ordering Eastman to turn over emails to the committee, and the judge ruled in April that Trump’s attempts to overturn the election “more likely than not constitute attempts to obstruct an official proceeding.” Eastman was directly involved in Trump’s post-election efforts and even spoke at the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol building, and he played a key role in the then-president’s strategy to try and block Congress and Vice President Mike Pence from certifying the election result on January 6. The House January 6 committee has alleged during its public hearings that Eastman asked Trump for a presidential pardon following the January 6 attack. The emails alleging Trump knowingly signed off on false voter fraud numbers is in line with evidence put forth by the House committee during its public hearings, which alleged Trump knew and was repeatedly told that his claims of election fraud were false, but he continued to push them anyway. There is no evidence to support claims of widespread election fraud in the 2020 election, as numerous court rulings, state audits and analyses have found.