A former lawyer to Donald Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse lower court rulings that enabled the now-defunct House January 6 committee to access information, arguing that those decisions harm the former president’s presidential aspirations.
A petition (pdf) filed by John Eastman with the Supreme Court argued that a March 2022 ruling handed down by Judge David O. Carter, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, “created a stigma for both Petitioner and his client, the former President of the United States and current candidate for the presidency.”
Carter had written last year that his court found it “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021” along with Eastman. Both Trump and Eastman have denied wrongdoing, while Trump has often pointed to public statements he made on Jan. 6 that protesters should demonstrate peacefully and respect local law enforcement officials.
The California-based judge, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for California’s 38th Congressional District years ago, also claimed that the “illegality of the plan was obvious” and said the United States was “founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections.” Eastman had claimed attorney-client privilege, but Carter rejected the claim and ruled that attorney-client privilege does not apply if the discussion involved an alleged crime.
At the time, he ordered Eastman to turn over documents and electronic communications to the House Jan. 6 committee, which was scrapped after Republicans took control of the lower congressional chamber earlier this year. He alleged that 33 documents were emails that allegedly demonstrated “an effort by President Trump and his attorneys to press false claims in federal court for the purpose of delaying” the Jan. 6 certification.
That was in connection to Eastman having written a memo outlining a legal strategy for Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College votes for then-candidate Joe Biden while he presided over the Jan. 6 session. Pence did not ultimately go through with what was outlined in Eastman’s document, and Trump—now a 2024 presidential candidate—criticized Pence on social media for the move. Pence is reportedly slated to announce a presidential bid of his own in the coming weeks.
In late 2022, Trump criticized Carter for what he described as a partisan ruling.
“Who’s this Clinton appointed ‘Judge,’ David Carter, who keeps saying, and sending to all, very nasty, wrong, and ill informed statements about me on rulings, or a case (whatever!), currently going on in California, that I know nothing about—nor am I represented,” Trump wrote on social media. “With that being said … he shouldn’t be making statements about me until he understands the facts, which he doesn’t!”
In his Supreme Court petition, Eastman argued that the “respondent committee’s action of accessing disputed documents while a motion to stay was pending, and then publishing in a public filing a live link to the confidential documents that were the subject of the appeal, deprived Petitioner (Eastman) of the opportunity to show that the ‘crime-fraud’ conclusions of the District Court were clearly erroneous, thus clearing his name and that of his former client, former President Trump,” according to his petition.
“Because the law is clearly established and the facts are not in dispute, this case is a candidate for summary reversal with an order that the District Court judgment and orders be vacated,” he also wrote.
Eastman’s filing was made in late April but was only made public on the Supreme Court’s docket this week. Notably, Eastman is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and was a law professor at Chapman University.
“This case became moot by the unilateral action of the defendant that prevailed in the District Court,” the filing concluded. “Respondent committee’s action of accessing disputed documents while a motion to stay was pending, and then publishing in a public filing a live link to the confidential documents that were the subject of the appeal, deprived Petitioner of the opportunity to show that the ‘crime-fraud’ conclusions of the District Court were clearly erroneous, thus clearing his name and that of his former client, former President Trump.”
In January, the then-House select committee, which was dominated by Democrats and prominently featured former Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), issued a subpoena to from Eastman’s Chapman college email account between late 2020 and early 2021 regarding the memo.
The committee also recommended that Eastman face prosecution on two counts. “The evidence shows that Eastman knew in advance of the 2020 election that Vice President Pence could not refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th,” the committee wrote in a report.
But Eastman contended that the House committee only showed information that would be politically advantageous for Democrats. What’s more, he’s told reporters that claims he tried to block certification are distorted and merely recommended that the vice president delay certifying the electoral count.
“By cherry-picking the things that supported their position and ignoring all the rest, they had a preponderance of the evidence,” Eastman told reporters last year.