Judge rejects effort by Trump ally Eastman to sideline Jan. 6 committee subpoena
Updated: 01/25/2022 08:16 AM EST
A federal judge indicated Monday he will reject an urgent bid by John Eastman — the attorney who spearheaded Donald Trump’s effort to pressure Mike Pence to single-handedly overturn the 2020 election — to invalidate a subpoena issued last week by the Jan. 6 select committee to Chapman University, Eastman’s former employer.
Instead, Judge David Carter ordered Eastman to work with the Jan. 6 panel to produce a log of documents that Eastman wants the university to withhold, citing a variety of confidentiality restrictions and privileges.
“The Court expects that the parties will work together with the urgency that this case requires,” ruled Carter, who sits on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where Eastman filed suit.
The ruling is the latest in a string of court victories for the Jan. 6 select committee, which is now slated to learn, perhaps this week, the general subjects of key documents that Eastman had hoped to shield from the panel. Carter ordered the committee and Eastman to file public progress reports on Wednesday and Friday and to reconvene a hearing next week.
The committee issued its subpoena to Chapman University on Jan. 18, demanding documents by Jan. 21. Eastman filed suit against the committee and the school on Jan. 20. He has also sued the panel in federal court in Washington to block a subpoena for his own testimony and records.
Eastman was a central figure in Trump’s last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 election, developing a legal strategy to pressure Pence to declare total authority to reject dozens of Joe Biden’s presidential electors. Under Eastman’s plan, Pence — who was constitutionally required to preside over the Jan. 6 counting of electoral votes — would simply refuse to count those from states Trump was contesting, throwing the result into doubt.
But Pence refused to go along with the plan, drawing scorn from Trump and inflaming the crowd of Trump supporters who soon breached the Capitol, with many chanting “hang Mike Pence.”
In his order Monday, Carter said he intended to reject several of the key arguments Eastman put forward, including one claiming the committee lacks authority to issue its subpoena in the first place, as well as claims based on the First and Fourth Amendments.
Eastman has also contended that many of the documents the committee is seeking would reveal attorney work product related to clients he worked with at Chapman University,
“In his time at Chapman, Dr. Eastman practiced law in addition to his academic work. Dr. Eastman ran a law school clinic which provided legal representation to the public,” his attorney Charles Burnham argued in the lawsuit. “He also accepted pro bono and privately retained clients, especially those with cases relevant to his scholarly work.”
At the hearing Monday, Carter ordered the committee to publicly reveal correspondence it had with Eastman’s attorney. And the panel posted the short exchange that began in early November on the court’s docket late Monday. In the exchanges, committee investigator John Wood — a former Republican-appointed U.S. attorney from Missouri — indicated that Eastman had used an email account associated with Chapman University for “matters related to the election as late as January 2021.”
Wood asked if Burnham could confirm that Eastman still had access to those emails and could produce them to the panel.
“If not, we can send a subpoena to Chapman, but we thought it would be easier for everyone if it turns out we can get them from you and you are able to review them before producing them,” Wood wrote.
Chapman University received a subpoena regarding Mr. Eastman's emails and is complying with the court," said Cerise Valenzuela Metzger, Chapman University director of public relations.
Eastman had previously indicated his intent to assert his Fifth Amendment rights on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” Podcast. Bannon himself refused to cooperate with the select committee. He has since been held in contempt of Congress and charged by the Justice Department.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report listed the incorrect district for Judge David Carter. He is a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.