A federal court ruling out of Orange County is being featured prominently in the nationally televised Congressional hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
In his ruling on which emails had to be turned over to Congressional investigators, OC-based U.S. District Judge David O. Carter found “it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”
Saying efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election were “a coup in search of a legal theory,” the judge ruled that if Trump lawyer John Eastman “and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”
Eastman, who at the time was a tenured Chapman University law professor, was part of Trump’s legal team in his efforts to block the election certification.
Carter’s ruling echoed what dozens of federal judges – including several appointed by Trump – found regarding allegations of widespread election fraud: The claims were unsubstantiated by evidence.
“President Trump and Dr. Eastman justified the plan with allegations of election fraud— but President Trump likely knew the justification was baseless, and therefore that the entire plan was unlawful,” Carter said in his March ruling.
Carter’s findings in late March came as he ruled on which emails Eastman – who was using his Chapman University account – had to turn over to the U.S. House committee investigating the Capitol attack.
Before Carter issued his decision, Eastman wrote in a court filing that if the judge were to rule in favor of the Jan. 6 Committee, “it may be the first formal finding of Presidential criminality by a federal court in United States history.”
Now, the ruling is being highlighted at the January 6 Committee’s public hearings.
At the first hearing last Thursday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) quoted from the ruling and encouraged every American to read it.
“In the course of the Select Committee’s work to obtain information from Mr. Eastman, we have had occasion to present evidence to a federal judge. The judge evaluated the facts, and he reached the conclusion that President Trump’s efforts to pressure Vice President Pence to act illegally – by refusing to count electoral votes – likely violated two federal criminal statutes,” Cheney said, before quoting from Carter’s ruling and displaying it on a screen.
“Every American should read what this federal judge has written,” she added.
“The same judge, Judge Carter, issued another decision on Tuesday night – just this week – indicating that John Eastman and other Trump lawyers knew that their legal arguments had no real chance of success in court. But they relied on those arguments anyway to try to ‘overturn a democratic election.’ ”
Cheney also quoted an email Carter ordered Eastman to disclose to the committee, written by then-Vice President Mike Pence’s top lawyer as he hid with Pence in a secure area while the Capitol was being breached on Jan. 6.
In that message, Pence’s lawyer, Greg Jacob, wrote to Eastman:
“Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.”
In response to the committee hearings, Trump issued a 12-page statement reiterating that “the 2020 Election was Rigged and Stolen,” and saying the hearings were simply an effort by Democrats to prevent him from seeking the presidency again.
“This is merely an attempt to stop a man that is leading in every poll, against both Republicans and Democrats by wide margins, from running again for the Presidency,” Trump wrote in his statement.
“Last week, as the chairman noted, our committee began outlining a seven-part plan – overseen by President Trump – to overturn the 2020 election. Today we will begin looking at the initial part of that plan: President Trump’s effort to convince millions of Americans that the election was stolen from him by overwhelming fraud,” she said.
“A federal court has already reviewed elements of the committee’s evidence on this point and said this: ‘In the months following the election, numerous credible sources – from the president’s inner circle to agency leadership and statisticians – informed of President Trump and Dr. Eastman that there was no evidence of election fraud’ sufficient to overturn the 2020 presidential election,” Cheney continued.
“The court’s opinion methodically documents each of the principal reasons for that conclusion, and I would urge all those watching to read it,” she added.
Eastman did not appeal the ruling, which he said he would comply with.
The ruling raised questions about whether Chapman University’s email servers fueled the storming of the Capitol.
It’s not the only Orange County connection to Jan. 6.
Federal authorities have charged several Orange County residents in connection with the Capitol storming, including the former police chief of La Habra.
The FBI also searched an Irvine apartment belonging to a sheriff’s special officer.
Carter is known locally for presiding over a high-profile 2018 lawsuit over Santa Ana River bed homeless encampment evictions at a time local homeless shelters were nearly full.
After Carter temporarily halted the evictions and held a series of public court hearings, the case ultimately resulted in enforceable commitments by the county and local cities to create hundreds more shelter beds.
Cities also agreed to not clear encampments without first having a health or outreach worker offer each homeless person an available shelter bed and health assessment.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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