When Donald Trump’s team and allies scrambled in the wake of his defeat to overturn the 2020 results, it was not a freelance affair. Much of the then-president’s operation — including his White House and campaign teams — was directly involved in various aspects of the anti-election gambit.
And so was Trump himself. Politico reported this morning:
John Eastman, the attorney who architected Donald Trump’s last-ditch legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election, revealed Friday that he routinely communicated with Trump either directly or via “six conduits” during the chaotic weeks that preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
At issue is a court filing from late last night in which the controversial Republican lawyer described Trump’s direct role in the broader legal scheme, including “two hand-written notes from former President Trump about information that he thought might be useful for the anticipated litigation.”
Politico’s report noted that Eastman said he would also speak directly with the then-president by telephone throughout his legal challenges to the election.
To best understand how we arrived at this point, let’s circle back to our earlier coverage. It was in the summer of 2020 when Eastman published a bizarre piece that argued that Vice President Kamala Harris was ineligible for national office because her parents immigrated to the United States.
He then began working with Trump — the then-president saw him on Fox News and was impressed — and as part of that employment, Eastman filed a brief in December 2020 on Trump’s behalf that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 presidential election. (It was filled with factual errors — including an obvious one literally on the first page.)
Soon after, he authored what’s become known as the Eastman Memo, which effectively outlined how Republicans could execute something resembling a post-election coup.
This, naturally, made him a witness of great interest to the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, but when Eastman sat down with congressional investigators, the Republican lawyer reportedly pleaded the Fifth — by some accounts, nearly 150 times.
The panel proceeded to subpoena Eastman’s records, most notably the emails from his time working with Trump to overturn the election. The Republican lawyer tried to block that effort, claiming the materials were protected by attorney-client privilege.
It led the Jan. 6 committee to argue that communications between attorneys and clients are not protected if they’re discussing committing crimes. In late March, a federal judge agreed, concluding, “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.”
This was a breakthrough moment. Indeed, there’s no modern precedent for a sitting federal court to conclude that a former American president probably committed a felony. This led to some important disclosures, including materials that showed Eastman inventing ridiculous rationales and telling GOP state legislators they had the authority to ignore election results and approve slates of fake electors.
That said, the court ruling applied to a set of communications from a specific time period, and the larger legal fight over other Eastman emails is ongoing.
It’s against this backdrop that the lawyer is still trying to shield all kinds of materials via attorney-client privilege — including the strategy notes he received from Trump. Watch this space.