As the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has proceeded with its examination, many have speculated about how far the panel might go in making accusations directly implicating Donald Trump. It’s what made last night’s court filing so striking. NBC News reported:
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol argued in a new court filing that former President Donald Trump and members of his campaign were part of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results.
Let’s quickly review how we arrived at this point. A Trump-allied lawyer named John Eastman allegedly played a central and direct role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election, not only pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence by way of a memo that effectively outlined a coup, but also helping pressure states not to send Democratic electors, even after the Democratic ticket won those states.
Not surprisingly, congressional investigators had a few questions for Eastman, but when he sat down with the bipartisan committee, he reportedly pleaded the Fifth — by some accounts, nearly 150 times.
And so, the panel took the next obvious step: It subpoenaed Eastman’s records, most notably the emails from his time working with Trump to overturn the election. The Republican lawyer has tried to block that effort, claiming the materials are protected by attorney-client privilege.
It led the Jan. 6 committee to file a motion in court last night, making the opposite case: Communications between attorneys and clients are not protected if they’re discussing committing crimes. In other words, if you were planning to do something illegal, and you coordinated with your lawyer to execute the criminal scheme, you couldn’t hide the evidence by claiming the communications must be shielded.
It’s against this backdrop that the Jan. 6 committee said in its new court filing that congressional investigators now believe Trump and Eastman allegedly committed crimes, voiding any potential attorney-client-privilege concerns.
“The Select Committee ... has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the panel said in its filing.
In case this isn’t obvious, the court filing is the first time the bipartisan House committee has laid out in writing, in an official legal filing, the fact that it believes Trump and his team may have committed crimes, and what those alleged crimes might’ve entailed.
Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney added in a written statement issued last night, “The Select Committee is not conducting a criminal investigation. But, as the judge noted at a previous hearing, Dr. Eastman’s privilege claims raise the question whether the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege applies in this situation. We believe evidence in our possession justifies review of these documents under this exception in camera.
“The facts we’ve gathered strongly suggest that Dr. Eastman’s emails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of electoral college ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power.”
It now falls to the courts to consider the arguments. Watch this space.