Trump lawyer suggested challenging Georgia Senate elections in search of fraud

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John Eastman, the conservative attorney whose plan to block congressional certification for the 2020 election failed spectacularly on Jan. 6, 2021, sent an email two weeks later arguing that pro-Trump forces should prosecute to to continue investigating the alleged electoral fraud he had committed. acknowledged that they had not found.

On January 20, 2021, hours after President Biden’s inauguration, Mr. Eastman emailed Rudolph W. Giuliani, the personal attorney for former President Donald J. Trump, proposing that they challenge the Georgia second-round outcome for two Senate seats won on Jan. 5 by Democrats.

“Many of us have now put our reputation on the line through allegations of voter fraud, and this would be one way to gather evidence,” wrote Mr Eastman in the previously undisclosed email, which also went to others, including a top Trump campaign adviser. . “If we get evidence of fraud on Jan. 5, it will likely also prove fraud on Nov. 3, justifying President Trump’s claims and serving as a strong bulwark against the Senate impeachment process.”

The email, which has been reviewed by The New York Times and verified by people who worked on the Trump campaign at the time, is the latest proof that even some of Mr Trump’s most ardent supporters knew they were making their baseless claims. of widespread votes had not proved. fraud – but wanted to continue their efforts to make the outcome illegal even after Mr Biden took office.

Mr. Eastman’s message also underscored that he had not taken on the work of keeping Mr. Trump out of conviction: He asked Mr. Giuliani for help collecting a $270,000 bill he sent to Mr. the Trump campaign for his legal services.

The charges include $10,000 a day for eight days of work in January 2021, including the two days before January 6 when Mr. Eastman and Mr. Trump tried unsuccessfully to pressure Vice President Mike Pence into Oval Office meetings during meetings in the Oval Office. going with the plan to block congressional certification of Electoral College results on Jan. 6 (Mr. Eastman never appears to have been paid.)

An attorney for Mr Eastman did not respond to a request for comment.

Disclosure of the email comes as the Justice Department is stepping up its criminal investigation into the attempt to undo the 2020 election. Patrick F. Philbin, who served as White House deputy counsel under Mr Trump, has received a grand jury subpoena in the case, according to a person familiar with the situation.

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mr. Philbin is the last senior former White House official known to be called to testify before the grand jury. Others include his former boss, Pat A. Cipollone, who, like White House counsel, argued with other White House attorneys against some of the more extreme steps suggested by Mr. Trump and his advisers when they attempted to hold the power.

Previous subpoenas of a number of people had inquired about outside attorneys, including Mr. Eastman and Mr. Giuliani, who advised Mr Trump and promoted his efforts to nullify the results.

In June, federal agents armed with a search warrant seized Mr. Eastman’s phone and stopped him as he exited a New Mexico restaurant.

In testimony to the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, another White House attorney, Eric Herschmann, said that on Jan. 7, 2021, Mr. Eastman came up with the idea of ​​filing a lawsuit. to engage in Georgia. Mr Herschmann said he replied that Mr Eastman was crazy, adding that he told Mr Eastman, “I only want to hear two words come out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition.”

Mr. Herschmann went on to tell Mr. Eastman to get a good criminal defense attorney because he would need one.

The newly released email reveals that Mr Eastman did not hold back even after Mr Biden was sworn in. The email was sent after the Trump campaign raised tens of millions of dollars through requests to Mr. Trump’s supporters suggesting the money would be used to fight vote fraud, even as Mr. allies were rejected and broadly disproved by the courts, even by Mr Trump’s own Justice Department.

In proposing to use Georgia’s second-rate elections as a means of detecting fraud in the general election held months earlier, Mr Eastman implicitly admitted that other more direct allegations of fraud had failed to take hold.

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The email suggests Mr Eastman saw the courts in Georgia as an investigative tool, leveraging the discovery process, to continue trying to bolster claims that had already been dismissed.

“We need to figure out how to keep up the fight,” wrote Mr Eastman. “I am inclined to take on an election challenge for the Georgia elections, based on what we have already learned (massive statistical anomalies, violations of Georgian law, etc.). Under Georgian law, any qualified voter can object even if the candidates themselves are not interested.”

In the email, Mr. Eastman argued that if the group of lawyers and Trump advisers involved in the effort could uncover fraud in the January runoff in Georgia — which was won by Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both Democrats. – they could justify their claims about the November election.

Towards the end of the email, Mr Eastman suggested that the Trump campaign could fund the ongoing effort. He named a team of attorneys he would recommend, but said two of them had to pay their outstanding Trump campaign bills before considering taking on the job.

Mr. Eastman was not alone in seeking payment from the campaign’s bloated coffers for his efforts to keep Mr. Trump in office. An employee of Mr Giuliani sent an email to the campaign shortly after Election Day in 2020 asking for $20,000 a day in compensation from Mr Giuliani. At the time, Mr. Giuliani urged Mr. Trump to continue fighting the election results and seized the opportunity to lead the legal effort to do just that.

But Mr. Trump told his advisers at the time that Mr. Giuliani would only “get paid,” a reference to a bet in the casino game craps that is essentially payment on a successful roll of the dice, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.

Mr Eastman told some of Mr Trump’s aides that he worked for free, according to one of those knowledgeable in the discussions. At the same time, he had entered into a private deal with another attorney working on Mr. Trump’s efforts, Bruce Marks, to be compensated by Mr. Marks, although it appears he did not receive money that way.

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By the time Mr. Biden became president, Mr. Eastman was trying to get paid directly, the Jan. 20 email shows, although two people with knowledge of the campaign’s finances said he never was. In addition to wanting to be paid for his time at the White House in January, he tried to charge the Trump campaign $125,000 for his work on a lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General to overturn the election results. to get a number of battlefield states. invalidated. The suit was quickly discarded by the Supreme Court.

Since the Capitol riots, Mr. Eastman has gone from a little-known conservative college professor to become the best-known legal architect and promoter of the plan to use alleged voter rolls that back Mr. Trump in an effort to block or delay Congressional certification. . Mr Biden’s victory on January 6.

His actions have been a focus of both the Justice Department’s investigation and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack and what led to it. Mr Eastman repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned by the committee.

During personal meetings at the White House in the days leading up to Jan. 6, Mr. Eastman mr. Pence and his top attorney, Greg Jacob, into agreeing to the plan to reverse the election.

At the first meeting, on Jan. 4, Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman brought Mr. Pence and two of his top assistants, Mr. Jacob and Marc Short, to the Oval Office. That meeting was followed by another, on January 5, in which Mr. Eastman again tried to persuade Mr. Jacob to join the plan.

After Mr. Jacob refused, on January 6, Mr. Trump publicly pressured Mr. Pence in front of a rowdy crowd of his supporters at the Ellipse. Later that day, when a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol, Mr. Jacob emailed Mr. Eastman blaming him for the violence.

In March, a federal judge in a civil case ruled that Mr. Eastman and Mr. Trump had most likely committed crimes when they pushed for the election to be reversed, including obstructing the work of Congress and plotting to defraud the United States. .

Mr Trump and Mr Eastman’s actions, the judge ruled, amounted to “a coup in search of a legal theory”.

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