The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from former President Donald Trump’s lawyer John Eastman, who sought to block a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot from obtaining his emails. Justice Clarence Thomas, who had previously hired Eastman as a law clerk, recused himself from the decision.
Eastman’s role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election
Eastman, a conservative lawyer and former law professor, was the architect of Trump’s legal strategy to try to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. He drafted a memo outlining a plan to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes from several states that Biden won. He also spoke at a rally near the White House on Jan. 6, shortly before a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the election results.
Eastman faces criminal charges in Georgia, along with Trump, for allegedly soliciting election fraud and violating state laws. He is also named in a federal indictment in Washington, D.C., that accuses Trump and several associates of obstructing the official proceeding of Congress on Jan. 6.
The lawsuit over Eastman’s emails
In March, Eastman filed a lawsuit in California to try to prevent the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack from obtaining his emails with Trump and others related to the election challenge. He claimed that his emails were protected by attorney-client privilege and that the committee’s subpoena was invalid.
However, a federal judge ruled against him and ordered him to comply with the subpoena. The judge said that Eastman and Trump had likely committed crimes in trying to overturn the election and that their plan was “obvious” and “unprecedented in American history”. The judge also said that the committee had a legitimate legislative purpose in seeking the emails and that the public interest outweighed Eastman’s privacy claims.
Eastman appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied his request for an emergency stay. He then asked the Supreme Court to intervene and vacate the lower court’s order.
The Supreme Court’s order
On Monday, the first day of its new term, the Supreme Court issued a brief order denying Eastman’s request without comment. The order noted that Thomas took no part in the decision, but did not explain why. Thomas is the only justice who has sided with Trump in previous cases involving the Jan. 6 investigation.
The order means that Eastman must turn over his emails to the committee, unless he can persuade the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court’s ruling on the merits. The committee has said that it needs the emails to understand the role of Trump and his allies in the events leading up to and on Jan. 6.
The Supreme Court’s order also signals that the justices are unlikely to intervene in other cases involving the Jan. 6 probe, such as the lawsuit filed by Trump to block the committee from accessing his White House records.