Posts tagged with "John Eastman"

DOJ issues 40 subpoenas in a week—expanding its January 6 inquiry

September 14, 2022

Justice Department officials have seized the phones of two top advisers to former President Donald Trump and blanketed his aides with about 40 subpoenas in a substantial escalation of the investigation into his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the inquiry, reports The New York Times.

The seizure of the phones—coupled with a widening effort to obtain information from those around Trump after the 2020 election—represent some of the most aggressive steps the department has taken thus far in its criminal investigation into the actions that led to the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

The extent of the investigation has come into focus in recent days, even though it often has been overshadowed by the government’s legal clash with Trump and his lawyers over a separate inquiry into the handling of presidential records—including highly classified materials, the former president kept at his residence in Florida, the Mar-a-Lago Club.

Federal agents with court-authorized search warrants took phones last week from at least two people: Boris Epshteyn, an in-house counsel who helps coordinate Trump’s legal efforts; and Mike Roman, a campaign strategist who was the director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign in 2020, people familiar with the investigation said.

Epshteyn and Roman have been linked to a critical element of Trump’s bid to hold onto power—the effort to name slates of electors pledged Trump from swing states won by Joe Biden in 2020 as part of a plan to block or delay congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Epshteyn and Roman did not respond to requests for comment. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The names of those receiving the latest round of subpoenas in the investigation related to January 6 have dribbled out gradually, with investigators casting a wide net on a range of issues, including Trump’s postelection fund-raising and the so-called fake electors scheme.

One of the recipients, people familiar with the case said, was Dan Scavino, Trump’s former social media director who rose from working at a Trump-owned golf course to become one of his most loyal West Wing aides, and has remained an adviser since Trump left office. Stanley Woodward, one of Scavino’s lawyers, declined to comment.

Another was Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner. Kerik, who promoted claims of voter fraud alongside his friend Rudy Giuliani, was issued a subpoena by prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., his lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said on Monday, September 12. Parlatore said his client had initially offered to grant an interview voluntarily.

The subpoenas seek information in connection with the fake electors plan.

For months, Trump associates have received subpoenas related to other aspects of the investigations into his efforts to cling to power. But in a new line of inquiry, some of the latest subpoenas focus on the activities of the Save America political action committee, the main political fund-raising conduit for Trump since he left office.

The fact that the Justice Department is now seeking information related to fund-raising comes as the House committee examining the January 6 attack has raised questions about money Trump solicited under the premise of fighting election fraud.

The new subpoenas encompass a wide variety of those in Mr. Trump’s orbit, from low-level aides to his most senior advisers.

The Justice Department has spent more than a year focused on investigating hundreds of rioters who were on the ground at the Capitol on Jan. 6. But this spring, it started issuing grand jury subpoenas to people like Ali Alexander, a prominent organizer with the pro-Trump Stop the Steal group, who helped plan the march to the Capitol after Mr. Trump gave a speech that day at the Ellipse near the White House.

While it remains unclear how many subpoenas had been issued in that early round, the information they sought was broad.

According to one subpoena obtained by The New York Times, they asked for any records or communications from people who organized, spoke at, or provided security for Trump’s rally at the Ellipse. They also requested information about any members of the executive and legislative branches who may have taken part in planning or executing the rally, or tried to “obstruct, influence, impede, or delay” the certification of the presidential election.

By early summer, the grand jury investigation had taken another turn, as several subpoenas were issued to state lawmakers and state Republican officials allied with Trump who took part in a plan to create fake slates of pro-Trump electors in several key swing states that Biden actually won.

At least 20 of these subpoenas were sent out and sought information about, and communications with, several lawyers who took part in the fake elector scheme, including Giuliani and John Eastman.

Around the same time, federal investigators seized Eastman’s cellphone and the phone of another lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, whom Trump had sought at one point to install as the acting attorney general. Clark had his own role in the fake elector scheme: In December 2020, he helped draft a letter to Governor Brian Kemp (R) of Georgia, saying that the state’s election results had been marred by fraud and recommending that Kemp convene a special session of the Georgia Legislature to create a slate of pro-Trump electors.

At least some of the new subpoenas also requested all records that the recipients had turned over to the House January 6 committee, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Research contact: @nytimes

Seven Trump allies subpoenaed in Georgia criminal investigation

July 7, 2022

Seven advisers to and allies of former President Donald Trump—including his former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and GOP Senator Lindsey Graham—were subpoenaed on Tuesday, July 5, in the ongoing criminal investigation in Georgia of election interference by Trump and his associates, reports The New York Times.

The move was the latest sign that the inquiry has entangled a number of prominent members of Trump’s orbit and may cloud the future for the former president.

The subpoenas underscore the breadth of the investigation by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, which encompasses most of Atlanta. She is weighing a range of charges, according to legal filings, including racketeering and conspiracy, and her inquiry has encompassed witnesses from beyond the state.

The latest round of subpoenas was reported earlier by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to the Times, the Fulton County investigation is one of several inquiries into efforts by Trump and his team to overturn the election, but it is the one that appears to put them in the greatest immediate legal jeopardy.

A House special committee continues to investigate the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. And there is an intensifying investigation by the Justice Department into a scheme to create slates of fake presidential electors in 2020.

Amid the deepening investigations, Trump is weighing an early entrance into the 2024 presidential race; people close to him have said he believes it would bolster his claims that the investigations are politically motivated.

A subpoena is not an indication that someone is a subject of an inquiry, although some of the latest recipients are considered at risk in the case—in particular, Giuliani, who has emerged as a central figure in the grand jury proceedings in the Georgia investigation. Giuliani spent several hours speaking before state legislative panels in December 2020, where he peddled false conspiracy theories about corrupted voting machines and a video that he claimed showed secret suitcases of Democratic ballots. He told members of the State House at the time, “You cannot possibly certify Georgia in good faith.”

Willis’s office, in its subpoena, said Giuliani “possesses unique knowledge concerning communications between himself, former President Trump, the Trump campaign, and other known and unknown individuals involved in the multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”

Though the subpoenas were issued Tuesday, not all had necessarily been received. Robert J. Costello, a lawyer for Mr. Giuliani, said, “We have not been served with any subpoena, therefore we have no current comment.”

Others sent subpoenas included Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who worked closely with Giuliani to overturn the 2020 election results; John Eastman, the legal architect of a plan to keep Trump in power by using fake electors; and Graham, the South Carolina Republican who called Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, days after the election to inquire about the rules for discarding mail-in ballots.

Another prominent lawyer who received a subpoena, Cleta Mitchell, was on a January 2, 2021, call that Trump made to Raffensperger, during which he asked the secretary of state to find enough votes to reverse Georgia’s results. The subpoena to her said, “During the telephone call, the witness and others made allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia and pressured Secretary Raffensperger to take action in his official capacity to investigate unfounded claims of fraud.”

Two other Trump lawyers also have been subpoenaed: Jacki Pick Deason, who helped make the Trump team’s case before the Georgia legislature, and Kenneth Chesebro, whose role has come into sharper focus during the House January 6 hearings. In an email exchange with Eastman in the run-up to the January 6 attack, Chesebro wrote that the Supreme Court would be more likely to act on a Wisconsin legal challenge “if the justices start to fear that there will be ‘wild’ chaos on January 6 unless they rule by then, either way.”

The special grand jury was impaneled in early May and has up to one year to complete its work before issuing a report advising Willis on whether to pursue criminal charges, although Willis has said she hopes to conclude much sooner. In official letters sent to potential witnesses, her office has said that it is examining potential violations that include “the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.”

The new subpoenas offered some further clues about where her investigation is focused.

Research contact: @nytimes

FBI seizes phone of John Eastman, key figure in effort to overturn 2020 election

June 29, 2022

Federal agents seized the cell phone of John Eastman—an attorney who advised former President Donald Trump how to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election—Eastman said in a court filing on Monday, June 27, reports The Huffington Post.

Eastman filed a lawsuit asking the Justice Department to return his property and destroy any records it had obtained after FBI agents in New Mexico stopped him as he was leaving a restaurant last week. The investigators had a warrant and seized his iPhone, the filing says, and agents were able to access his email accounts.

He said in the filing that the agents “forced” him to unlock the device.

“By its very breadth, the warrant intrudes on significant privacy interests, both of [Eastman] and of others whose communications with him are accessible on the seized cell phone,” his attorneys wrote in the filing, obtained by The Hill.

Eastman was a key figure in developing a plan that would have seen Vice President Mike Pence delay or block certification of the 2020 Electoral College results, and his work has become a central focus of the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Pence refused to go along with the scheme.

Eastman also spoke at the January 6 rally just before the Capitol attack, where Trump falsely claimed that widespread election fraud had cost him the White House. There is no evidence to support those allegations.

The seizure of Eastman’s phone came the same day federal authorities searched the home of Jeffery Clark, a former Justice Department official under Trump who encouraged the then-president’s efforts to remain in office, despite his Electoral College loss to Joe Biden.

Clark had served in the Trump administration as assistant attorney general of the environment and natural resources division—but became close to the White House after the 2020 election. At one point, Trump mulled putting Clark in charge of the Justice Department after William Barr resigned after refusing to go along with Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.

The House select committee focused heavily on Eastman’s efforts to aid Trump during its third hearing this month. The body, citing an email he sent to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, also noted that Eastman sought to be on the president’s “pardon list.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

At third hearing, January 6 committee focuses on Trump’s efforts to pressure Pence

June 17, 2022

The third hearing by the House select committee investigating the January. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol focused in on a wide-ranging pressure campaign that then-President Donald Trump put on his own vice president, Mike Pence, to disrupt the transfer of power that day, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The hearing on Thursday, June 16, was led by Representative Pete Aguilar (D-California), according to committee aides; while John Wood, a senior investigator for the committee, was involved in questioning witnesses.

The committee in its second hearing on Monday reviewed evidence that Trump was told repeatedly by White House insiders, including his own attorney general, William Barr, that his claims that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud weren’t true. Trump, who refused to acknowledge the lack of evidence of election fraud, continued to assert that the election had been stolen. The committee says those claims helped inspire the mob on January 6 to storm the Capitol.

During the second public hearing, former Attorney General William Barr said the voter fraud claims were “disturbing allegations.” Witnesses testified on former President Donald Trump’s efforts to cast doubt on the election, which the committee alleges triggered the attack on the Capitol.

Trump has denied wrongdoing related to the riot and called the committee’s probe a sham.

On Thursday, the committee detailed how Trump, over the course of several weeks leading up to January 6, pushed Pence—who as vice president presided over the counting of Electoral College votes—to refuse to accept votes for Joe Biden from a handful of battleground states, throwing the election into chaos. The former president was following a playbook sketched out by lawyer John Eastman in a memo entitled “January 6 scenario.”

The scheme detailed by Eastman was based in part on the existence of fake slates of electors from seven battleground states—including Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia—signed by Trump backers. The hearing outlined evidence from the committee’s investigation into efforts to submit those slates, according to committee aides.

Under Eastman’s plan, Pence would refuse to count ballots in states that had multiple slates of electors. That would leave Trump with a majority of votes, and “Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected,” according to the memo.

After expected objections from Democrats, Pence would send the matter to the House, where each state would have one vote. Since Republicans at the time controlled the delegations of 26 states, “President Trump is re-elected,”  Eastman wrote.

Another version of the plan involved sending the electoral votes back to state legislatures, which would determine which electoral slates to send to Congress. More than 100 Republican House members and several Republican senators challenged votes from states such as Pennsylvania—challenges the House and Senate ultimately rejected.

Pence consulted with several experts about Eastman’s plan, including former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig, who hagreed to appear at the committee’s hearing Thursday.

In a letter distributed to members of Congress on January6, Pence wrote that, while some thought he could accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally, he didn’t think he had the “authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress.”

In a speech to the pro-Trump crowd at the Ellipse near the White House on January. 6, Eastman said, “All we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at 1:00 he let the legislators of the [states] look into this so we get to the bottom of it.”

“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president,” Trump said in his January 6 speech to the crowd, which followed Eastman’s.

After Trump’s speech, a large crowd started moving toward the Capitol. Trump later tweeted that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Members of the mob that broke into the Capitol began chanting “hang Mike Pence”—and Trump was said to have privately agreed that they “might be right.”

Indeed, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), vice chairwoman of the select committee, in her opening statement at the panel’s first hearing said that Trump, aware of the chants, responded: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea.”

At the Thursday hearing, the committee planned to feature video evidence showing the danger Mr. Pence faced on January 6, committee aides said.

Research contact: @WSJ