The FBI Has Seized the Phone of Trump Adviser John Eastman

Eastman is a close ally of former President Donald Trump and has been a central figure in the investigation into the deadly 2021 Capitol riots

John Eastman
John Eastman. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP/Shutterstock

The FBI has seized the phone of attorney John Eastman — a close ally of former President Donald Trump and a central figure in the investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

In a legal filing, Eastman's attorney said the phone was seized by federal agents as part of its criminal probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Eastman was served with a search warrant while leaving a restaurant on June 22, frisked, and then "forced to provide biometric data to open said phone," the filing said.

In a motion to have the phone returned, the attorney claims the warrant "does not even mention, much less describe with specificity, any particular crime for which evidence sought by the warrant might be relevant."

Eastman, a former professor at Chapman University, has described himself as Trump's attorney who was assisting the then-president in his efforts to prove that the 2020 election was "stolen."

But, according to filings made public by the bipartisan congressional committee investigating the riots, Eastman was more than an adviser: "He spoke at the rally on the morning of January 6, spreading proven falsehoods to the tens of thousands of people attending that rally, and appears to have a broader role in many of the specific issues the Select Committee is investigating."

In response to 146 questions posed by the committee, Eastman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the filing says, and has attempted to "conceal a range of relevant documents behind claims of attorney-client privilege and work-product protection."

Eastman has also made legal attempts to keep records, including his emails, hidden from the House of Representatives committee, citing attorney-client privilege.

The committee has referred to an exception to attorney-client privilege: when a "client consults an attorney for advice that will serve him in the commission of a fraud or crime."

In a statement issued in March, Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said he believes "Eastman's emails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of electoral college ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power."

Thompson noted, however, that the select committee "is not conducting a criminal investigation," though the committee mentioned in March that Trump and Eastman could potentially be charged by the Department of Justice with criminal violations for their role in the event. The Department of Justice is conducting its own criminal probe into efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.

A federal judge wrote in a March court filing that "it is more likely than not" that Trump and Eastman enacted a plan to overturn the election, and justified that plan with allegations of election fraud.

Trump and Eastman, Judge David Carter wrote, "launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower — it was a coup in search of a legal theory. The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation's government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process."

A memo obtained by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa showed Eastman had written a detailed plan to attempt to persuade then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the 2020 election results on Jan. 6.

Pence did not, instead releasing a statement hours before Congress met to certify the election for Joe Biden, informing both the president and the public that he didn't have the constitutional power — or any intention — to intervene with the country's vote.

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