Federal agents seized the phone of John Eastman the Trump-allied conservative lawyer who wrote memo on overturning the election, per court documents

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John Eastman testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
John Eastman testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013.

John Eastman testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013.Charles Dharapak/AP

  • John Eastman is a conservative lawyer who worked for former President Donald Trump.

  • He wrote a memo that urged Vice President Mike Pence to effectively overturn the 2020 election.

  • The congressional committee investigating January 6 has obtained many of Eastman's communications.

Federal agents have seized the phone of John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who advised former President Donald Trump during his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, according to a court filing Monday.

Eastman revealed the seizure in a lawsuit, filed Monday in a New Mexico federal court, seeking the return of property from the government. According to his filing, FBI agents acting on behalf of the Justice Department's internal watchdog stopped Eastman as he was leaving a restaurant in New Mexico on June 22, taking his phone.

A copy of the search warrant, included in Eastman's court filings, said the phone would be taken to the Justice Department inspector general's forensic lab in northern Virginia.

The seizure marked only the latest indication of how the Justice Department is intensifying its criminal investigation into Trump's failed effort to remain in office and prevent the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden.

On the same day FBI agents seized Eastman's phone, federal investigators descended on the home of Jeff Clark, a former Justice Department official who eagerly advanced Trump's baseless claims of election fraud. That search unfolded on the eve of a congressional hearing in which the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol highlighted Trump and Clark's effort to pressure the Justice Department to back the former president's false claims of election fraud.

In recent hearings, the House January 6 committee has shown footage of Clark and Eastman repeatedly invoking their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination during closed-door depositions before the congressional panel.

A former law professor, Eastman resigned in January 2021 from Chapman University in Southern California amid outcry over his role in Trump's attempt to overturn the election. He remains a fellow at the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank.

In the weeks after Trump's defeat, Eastman emerged as the architect of a plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay or outright block the certification of the election results. In a memo, he argued that Pence could unilaterally reject slates of electors from states where Trump allies claimed there was widespread fraud — a plan that one constitutional expert told Insider amounted to "a proposed coup cloaked in legal language."

Pence's refusal to go along with that scheme was a source of anger for Trump. On January 6, as his supporters charged into the US Capitol, the former president said Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country."

A mob of Trump supporters then began chanting "hang Mike Pence." According to testimony from White House staff before the congressional committee investigating January 6, Trump agreed with the sentiment.

Eastman's own efforts to overturn the 2020 election continued even after rioters left the US Capitol, according to former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann. In testimony before the January 6 committee, Herschmann said that Eastman continued to pressfor a way to invalidate Biden's victory in the Electoral College, citing debunked claims of fraud to justify adopting alternate slates of electors from battleground states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Herschmann told investigators that he urged Eastman to lawyer up.

"I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life: Get a great f-ing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it," he said. "Then I hung up on him."

In a March 22 ruling, a federal judge wrote that congressional investigators had a right to obtain documents from Eastman related to their investigation.

"If Dr. Eastman and President Trump's plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution," the judge wrote. If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself."

Read the original article on Business Insider