Congressional investigators have obtained eight disputed emails that attorney John Eastman — a key architect of Donald Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election — had asked a federal appeals court to shield from lawmakers.
Eastman revealed in a Sunday court filing that he delivered a link to the Jan. 6 select committee providing access to the eight emails last week — an effort to comply with a federal district court judge’s order — but asked the committee to refrain from reviewing the records while he mounted an appeal.
Instead, the select committee rejected his request, questioning whether a formal appeal had been lodged, and downloaded the documents, Eastman indicated. He is now asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to demand that the select committee return or destroy the documents — and prevent the panel from making use of them until the appeals court takes action.
“While a stay barring the production is no longer available, an order directing the return or destruction of the documents and barring further use of them pending the appeal remains a viable remedy,” Eastman’s attorney Anthony Caso wrote.
But such an order by a court against Congress would be an extraordinary step by one coequal branch against another, and would be virtually impossible to enforce. A similar effort by Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich — who asked a judge to claw back financial records from the select committee after JP Morgan provided them in December — was met with extreme skepticism from a district court judge in Washington, D.C.
House Counsel Douglas Letter — the top attorney for the select committee — emphasized in an email to Eastman’s lawyers that once Carter rejected his request for reconsideration and a deadline to produce the emails had passed, there was no restriction on the select committee reviewing them.
“The Select Committee did so because the district court had ordered that these documents be disclosed to the Select Committee by 5 p.m. ET [Friday], and the district court had summarily denied your request for reconsideration or a stay (which had not been filed by you until the very eve of the disclosure deadline),” Letter wrote in the email, which Eastman included in his filing to the appeals court. “There was thus no court order prohibiting the Select Committee from examining the documents that the district court had ordered your client to produce. Any controversy about those particular documents is thus now moot.”
A select committee spokesperson declined to comment.
The eight emails in question were described by U.S. District Court Judge David Carter as evidence of a likely crime by Eastman and Trump, and they were included in a batch of several dozen documents that Carter ordered Eastman to deliver to the select committee. The ruling was the latest in a string of defeats for Eastman by Carter, stretching back to March. His ruling back then — contending that Trump and Eastman likely engaged in a criminal conspiracy — has become a centerpiece of the committee’s public presentation of evidence.
But until now, Eastman had opted against appealing any of Carter’s rulings.
Among the newly disclosed documents is an email that Carter said showed Trump signed legal documents attesting to voter fraud data that he knew was erroneous.
Eastman urged Carter to reconsider his ruling, but Carter rejected that request Friday, within minutes of Eastman’s decision to appeal the matter to the 9th Circuit. What happened next, in Eastman’s telling, was a paperwork morass.
Five minutes after Carter rejected his reconsideration request, Eastman’s attorney sent the select committee a link to access the eight disputed emails. But he urged the panel to refrain from opening it until the 9th Circuit acted.
“Instead of honoring that request, counsel for the Select Committee notified Dr. Eastman’s counsel at 6:26 pm PDT and 6:40 pm PDT that the Select Committee had ‘downloaded and examined’ the disputed documents, falsely asserting that there was no motion for stay pending before the Ninth Circuit at the time,” Eastman’s attorney Anthony Caso wrote.