Updated Mar 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Judge says Trump and ally Eastman launched Jan. 6 "coup in search of a legal theory"

Former President Trump during a rally in Georgia on March 26.
Former President Trump during a rally in Georgia on March 26. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Monday ordered John Eastman, an attorney and staunch ally to former President Trump, to turn over a cache of documents to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: Judge David Carter wrote that Eastman and Trump "launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history."

  • The select committee sought documents from Eastman that it believed would help show that Trump and his allies "engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States," according to previous court filings for this case.
  • Eastman, who helped Trump during the final weeks of his presidency to develop a strategy to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence into overturning the results of the 2020 election, refused to turn over documents to the select committee, claiming that they were protected by attorney-client privilege.
  • Judge Carter determined that ten documents were privileged but the rest must be turned over to investigators.
  • "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," Carter wrote.

What they're saying: "Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower — it was a coup in search of a legal theory," Carter wrote.

  • "The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process," he added.
  • "More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability. This case cannot provide it. The Court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails."
  • "This is not a criminal prosecution; this is not even a civil liability suit. At most, this case is a warning about the dangers of 'legal theories' gone wrong, the powerful abusing public platforms, and desperation to win at all costs."

The big picture: In previous filings for this case, the select committee outlined a potential criminal case against Trump and his allies.

  • It claimed to have evidence that could lead to Trump, Eastman and others facing criminal violations charges, such as "obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the American people."

What's next: Jan. 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in a statement that the ruling "clears the way for the Select Committee to obtain materials important to our investigation."

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