Updated Oct 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Judge: Trump signed off on voter fraud allegations he knew were false in legal docs

Former President Trump speaking in Mesa, Arizona, on Oct. 9.

Former President Trump speaking in Mesa, Arizona, on Oct. 9. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

A federal judge implied Wednesday former President Trump signed legal documents alleging instances of fraud during the 2020 election that he knew were false.

Why it matters: U.S. District Court Judge David Carter, in an 18-page opinion, said these knowingly false allegations were used in at least one lawsuit filed by Trump and his attorneys in a Georgia state court.

Context: The opinion stemmed from ex-Trump attorney John Eastman's lawsuit against the Jan. 6 select committee, which is seeking emails from Eastman that he's declined to turn over citing attorney-client privilege.

  • Eastman was a primary architect behind a theory that the vice president could unilaterally reject electoral votes as part of a last-ditched effort to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election.
  • He was previously ordered to turn a total of 101 emails, sent between Jan. 4 and Jan. 7, after a judge ruled he failed to adequately prove attorney-client privilege to prevent their release.
  • Eastman sought a presidential pardon in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, according to the select committee, which revealed this detail during a public hearing in June.

What they're saying: The opinion was part of a review to determine if Eastman’s emails between Nov. 3, 2020 and Jan. 20, 2021 are relevant to the committee's investigation or are protected by attorney-client privilege.

  • Carter said at least 33 additional emails are related to the committee's investigation and must be turned over because they "show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public."
  • "The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States," the judge continued.
  • Trump dismissed the findings and criticized Carter in a Truth Social post on Thursday.

The big picture: Carter's allegation stems from a specific lawsuit filed by Trump and his lawyers in a Georgia state court, in which they claimed Fulton County — which includes Atlanta — improperly counted votes from 10,315 deceased people, 2,560 felons and 2,423 unregistered voters and asked the court to overturn the results of the election and order a new one.

  • Before Trump and his lawyers appealed the case to Georgia's Supreme Court, Eastman told other Trump attorneys that the then-president "has since been made aware that some of the allegations (and evidence proffered by the experts) has [sic] been inaccurate. For him to sign a new verification with that knowledge (and incorporation by reference) would not be accurate."
  • Despite Eastman's warning, Trump and his attorneys appealed the complaint to the state supreme court with the same false numbers without changing them, though the appeal was ultimately rejected.
  • As part of the appeal, Trump signed "a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers 'are true and correct' or 'believed to be true and correct' to the best of his knowledge and belief,' according to Judge Carter.

Carter also said the emails contain at least four instances of Eastman and other attorneys suggesting that filing lawsuits contesting the results in key battleground states could delay or disrupt Congress' certification of votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

  • In one example, Carter said Trump's attorneys stated that having a case pending in the Supreme Court "might be enough to delay consideration of Georgia."
  • "This email, read in context with other documents in this review, make clear that President Trump filed certain lawsuits not to obtain legal relief, but to disrupt or delay the January 6 congressional proceedings through the courts," Carter wrote.

Go deeper: Trump's business charged Secret Service "excessive" hotel rates, docs show

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting and a statement from Trump.

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