Trump 'likely' committed felony by obstructing Congress, judge rules in dispute over Jan. 6 documents

Donald Trump
(Image credit: Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump "more likely than not" committed felony obstruction of Congress by trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, a federal judge said Monday in a ruling on a dispute over documents related to Jan. 6, Axios and Politico report.

According to court filings, Trump-allied legal scholar John Eastman had sued the committee in an attempt to block the committee from obtaining a cache of 111 emails Eastman sent or received between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021.

Eastman assisted then-President Trump in his effort to overturn the election by urging Republican state legislators in states President Biden won to appoint alternate electors who would vote for Trump. Eastman also authored a memo laying out a procedure then-Vice President Mike Pence could use to hand Trump a second term on Jan. 6.

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In December, Eastman invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked to testify before the Jan. 6 committee.

Judge David Carter — who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton — wrote in his ruling that Eastman's strategy was "a coup in search of a legal theory" and that "[b]ased on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress" and that Trump conspired with Eastman to defraud the United States.

Federal law defines "corruptly" in part as "acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading statement."

Carter ruled that 10 of the emails were privileged, as Eastman had argued, but that the other 101 must be handed over to the committee. The ruling has no direct effect on Trump.

"More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability. This case cannot provide it. The Court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails," Carter wrote.

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