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Trump lawyers saw Justice Clarence Thomas as their 'only chance' to overturn election, emails show

Justice Clarence Thomas was "key" to plans to derail President Biden's victory and keep former President Donald Trump in power, according to emails from Trump's lawyers released Wednesday as part of a court battle involving former law professor John Eastman and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol assault.

Overturning Biden's win required delaying the Jan. 6 congressional certification, and it's clear from the emails that Eastman and other Trump lawyers viewed Thomas as a likely ally. Eastman clerked for Thomas and was in contact with his wife, Ginni Thomas, as she was pushing to overturn Biden's victory. But Justice Thomas also handles emergency Supreme Court appeals from Georgia, and Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro focused on that power in a series of Dec. 31, 2020, emails.

"We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt," Chesebro wrote other members of Trump's legal team. "Realistically, our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas." 

Eastman, a chief architect of Trump's legal strategy to remain in office after losing the election, agreed. If Thomas were to act, "that may be enough to kick the Georgia Legislature into gear because I've been getting a lot of calls from them indicating they're leaning that way," he wrote back.

"If we can just get this case pending before the Supreme Court by Jan. 5, ideally with something positive written by a judge or justice, hopefully Thomas, I think it's our best shot at holding up the count of a state in Congress," Chesebro explained in another Dec. 31 email. 

Thomas has faced calls to recuse himself from all Jan. 6–released litigation, but he has actively declined. "There is no indication in the emails that any of the lawyers directly appealed to Clarence Thomas regarding election litigation," The Washington Post notes.

On MSNBC Wednesday night, host Chris Hayes tied the Eastman emails to the ongoing Jan. 6 insurrection trial of Oath Keepers leaders and the state and local officials who refused to participate in the scheme.

Eastman had tried to shield the emails from the Jan. 6 committee, but a federal judge said no, suggesting they were evidence of a criminal conspiracy. You can read the emails at Politico.