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Judge says Trump knew his voter fraud numbers were false, orders ex-lawyer to give more emails to Jan. 6 committee

U.S. District Judge David Carter said some of the emails show Trump knew voter fraud numbers were inaccurate before he signed off on their use in a lawsuit.
John Eastman speaks at a news conference outside of CU Boulder on April 29, 2021.
John Eastman speaks in Boulder, Colo., in 2021.Andy Cross / The Denver Post via Getty Images file

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered lawyer John Eastman, a key figure in former President Donald Trump's challenges to the 2020 election results, to turn over 33 new documents to the House Jan. 6 committee, including a number that the judge found are exempt from attorney-client privilege because they relate to a crime or an attempted crime.

In his order, U.S. District Judge David Carter of Central California found Eastman should hand over eight documents under the "crime-fraud exception" to attorney-client and attorney work privileges.

According to the judge, Eastman said in one of the email exchanges that Trump was aware that the number of voter fraud cases his team was alleging in a federal lawsuit challenging the election results in Georgia was "inaccurate." But, the judge said, Trump signed off on the suit, "swearing under oath" that the numbers were correct, anyway.

The email exchange centered on Trump's legal team's plan to use the same highly inflated fraud numbers it had used in a state court suit in early December 2020, alleging that Fulton County, Georgia, "improperly counted a number of votes including 10,315 deceased people, 2,560 felons, and 2,423 unregistered voters," the ruling said.

But on Dec. 30, 2020 — before the federal filing — "Eastman relayed 'concerns' from President Trump’s team 'about including specific numbers in the paragraph dealing with felons, deceased, moved, etc.,'" Carter said.

Eastman said in an email the next day that "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.

Nevertheless, Carter noted, "Trump and his attorneys ultimately filed the complaint with the same inaccurate numbers without rectifying, clarifying, or otherwise changing them,” adding, “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."

Carter — who previously found in the civil dispute that it is "more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021" — ruled the emails Eastman wanted to keep under wraps "are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.”

“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,” he ruled.

Carter also ruled that four other documents must be disclosed because they suggest that the primary goal of an unspecified legal filing was to delay the certification of the 2020 election results.

“In one email, for example, President Trump’s attorneys state 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.

An attorney for Eastman and a spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The decision was far from a complete loss for Eastman — Carter found that over 500 of the documents he sought to keep private because of attorney-client or work privileges did not have to be handed over to the committee.

Carter’s ruling was in a civil case, in which the burden of proof is lower than in a criminal case.

The Jan. 6 committee, which has prominently featured Eastman in its hearings, had subpoenaed Eastman's emails from a former workplace, Chapman University. Eastman filed his civil suit against the committee in federal court in California in January, arguing that the subpoena was improper.

The House panel had urged the judge to deny Eastman’s arguments that all of the emails it wanted were privileged, citing an exception when a client is involved in criminal activities and alleging that he and Trump had been “engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.”

Carter sided with the committee, finding that both Trump and Eastman most likely knew what they were doing was wrong.

Carter agreed in a ruling in March. “The illegality of the plan was obvious,” he wrote then.

Eastman testified in August before the special grand jury assisting Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation into whether there were any “coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections” in Georgia.

He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and cited attorney-client privilege during his testimony, his attorneys said afterward.