A week before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, John Eastman — the attorney spearheading Donald Trump’s last-ditch bid to remain in power — emailed an ally in the cause with a disparaging joke about his client.
“A shame you are not in DC and could contribute to violation of the emoluments clause,” Eastman wrote in the Dec. 30 email to attorney Kenneth Chesebro, a reference to allegations that Trump was improperly receiving foreign payments through his D.C.-based hotel.
Chesebro replied, in an email with formatting issues “I[’]m stay[i]ng at Trump Int [i]n DC from Jan 3 to at [l]east the 8th. Do[i]ng my part to curry favor w[i]th the Pres[i]dent by [li]n[i]ng h[i]s (empty) pockets! [emoji].”).
The exchange was part of a batch of emails that Eastman had shielded for months from the Jan. 6 select committee, claiming it was covered by attorney-client privilege or attorney work-product privilege. The select committee cited it Monday as evidence that Eastman has been improperly shielding documents from investigators as they attempt to determine the causes of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — and unlock new details of Trump’s bid to remain in power.
In a late Monday court filing, the select committee urged U.S. District Court Judge David Carter to review 562 still-unproduced documents that they say may contain material that should have been turned over to the Jan. 6 select committee months ago.
Eastman turned over a small batch of additional emails last week, as the select committee prepared to demand additional documents contained in a trove of emails he sent while working at California’s Chapman University, during the same period he was helping Trump’s effort to subvert the election. Eastman’s primary tactic was to convince state legislatures to adopt alternate slates of pro-Trump electors and then use the controversy to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence to decline to count some of Joe Biden’s electors on Jan. 6, when Congress met to count electoral votes.
Among the newly disclosed emails was another Eastman attempted to shield by citing its connection to litigation: a photo of a rally crowd signed by Donald Trump with the message “TIMES 50 SUCH EVENTS – NO WAY THIS LOSES.” Eastman similarly withheld an emaildelivering the photo to Eastman from Trump’s White House administrative assistant Molly Michael, citing attorney work product.
The committee is asking that Carter comb through this final tranche of undisclosed emails to determine whether any of the privilege claims Eastman made were simply an effort to shield significant evidence.
The effort by the select committee is a bid to round out its investigation ahead of the end of the current Congress. Eastman’s emails from Chapman University and University of Colorado-Boulder became some of the committee’s most potent data points about Trump’s effort to remain in power.
He pressed top Pence aides to continue to overturn the election even amid the chaos on Jan. 6, and his emails show correspondence with other Trump attorneys, including Rudy Giuliani, discussing plans to avoid court fights in an attempt to keep Trump in power without judicial review.
Carter has previously ruled that Eastman and Trump likely conspired to committee felony obstruction of Congress, citing that determination as a basis to invalidate some of Eastman’s previous claims of attorney-client privilege.
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