The halt in certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on January 6 last year as part of the plan to return Donald Trump to power was known to be illegal by at least one of the former president’s lawyers, according to an email exchange about the potential conspiracy.
Trump’s former lawyer John Eastman – who helped coordinate the plan from Trump’s “war room” at the Willard Hotel in Washington – acknowledged in an email to the vice president’s attorney to the Mike Pence-era, Greg Jacob, that the plan was a violation of the Voter Count Act.
But Eastman then urged Pence to go ahead with the plan anyway, pressuring the former vice president’s lawyer to consider backing the effort on the grounds that he wouldn’t. acted only as a “minor violation” of the law which governed the certification procedure.
The admission that the scheme was illegal undermines the arguments of Eastman and the Willard War Room team that they believed there was no wrongdoing in seeking to have Pence delay certification to the 6 January – one of the strategies they were looking to bring Trump back to power.
It further raises the possibility that other members of the Willard War Room – including former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon – also knew that the plan to delay or stop certification was illegal from the start.
The request to adjourn the joint session was one of many strategies Eastman laid out in an infamous memo presented to Trump, Pence and top aides last year, which detailed how the former deputy president could attempt to unilaterally overturn the 2020 election results.
The strategy to delay the joint session to Jan. 6 was to buy time for Trump and his team to pressure state legislatures to send Trump’s voter lists to Congress on the grounds that the voter lists Biden voters were illegitimate due to alleged voter fraud.
The email exchange – revealed in court documents by the select committee last week – shows that Eastman tried to take advantage of the fact that the electoral count law was not followed exactly the day after the election. attack on Capitol Hill to try to benefit Trump.
“Both the Senate and the House violated the voter count law tonight – they debated Arizona’s objections for over two hours. Violation of 3 USC 17,” Eastman wrote to Jacob in his 9:44 p.m. email, referring to U.S. Penal Code law.
But in the second part of his email, Eastman claimed that because the law had already been violated in small ways — delays that amounted to hours at best — Pence should have no problem committing “another minor violation and adjourn for 10 days”. .
This admission is important because it demonstrates that Eastman knew the scheme to delay Biden’s certification was illegal – which the select committee says bolsters his argument that he was involved in a conspiracy to defraud the United States. and obstruct Congress.
House Counsel Douglas Letter, appearing on behalf of the select committee in federal court on Tuesday, referenced the admission by positing that Eastman knew what he was advocating violated both count law election and the constitution.
The letter also said of Eastman’s request to Pence: “It was so minor that it could have changed the entire course of our democracy. This could have meant that the popularly elected president could have been prevented from taking office. That was what Dr. Eastman advocated.
But if Eastman knew the scheme violated the law, it raises the further possibility that Giuliani also knew it was illegal when he called Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville and asked him to oppose Biden’s victories, after the Attack on the Capitol.
In a voicemail recorded around 7 p.m. that evening and published by the Dispatch, Giuliani implored Tuberville to oppose 10 states that Biden won once Congress met at 8 p.m., a process that will would be finished 15 hours later and would have resulted in the joint session the following day. .
“The only strategy we can follow is to oppose many states and raise issues so that we commit to tomorrow – ideally until the end of tomorrow,” Giuliani said.
Eastman’s admission is part of a thread of emails with Jacob in filings submitted by the select committee seeking to challenge Eastman’s claim that more than a hundred emails requested by the panel are protected by the solicitor-client privilege and must remain secret.
But the select committee said in the documents that it should be allowed to conduct a in camera reviewing the records to determine if the criminal fraud exception applied, arguing in part that they appeared to show Eastman was engaged in criminal conspiracy and common law fraud.
The judge hearing the case ruled in favor of the panel after Tuesday’s hearing, allowing the review of around 100 emails to determine whether the records were subject to privilege, although he did not comment on whether Eastman could have engaged in criminal activity.