Justice Clarence Thomas recused himself from consideration of a matter involving Trump attorney John Eastman, the Supreme Court said Monday in declining to take up Eastman’s case.
The court rejected a bid from Eastman to overturn a series of lower court rulings which revealed to the Jan. 6 committee a set of his emails and which, critically, characterized him as a key conspirator in the criminal scheme to reverse the 2020 election.
That came in the form of several rulings from U.S. District Judge David Carter for the Central District of California who ruled that Eastman was committing a crime in messages sought by the Jan. 6 committee, calling his actions “a coup in search of a legal theory.” Among other things, Carter found that Eastman lied to a federal court in Georgia, and that he and Trump participated in a scheme to obstruct Congress and defraud the United States.
As Eastman’s and the Trump campaign’s various attempts to overturn the election petered out and the Jan. 6 deadline approached, their efforts became increasingly frantic.
In one exchange between Eastman and attorney Ken Chesebro, the two lawyers discuss attempting to bring a case before the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the result, in part out of a belief that Justice Thomas would be sympathetic.
“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 in the Dec. 31, 2020 message. “I think I agree with this,” Eastman replied.
Thomas’ recusal is noted in the case list by saying that he “took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.” There’s no explanation of why he recused, or specification of what underlying issue moved him to do so.
“[I]f 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 wrote in another Dec. 31 message to Eastman and a group of Trump attorneys.
Eastman, a former Thomas clerk, also corresponded with Ginni Thomas, the justice’s wife, during the period of time that Trump was both in office and seeking to reverse his loss.
The high court’s refusal to take the case is a big loss for Eastman, and comes as he stares down a state-level prosecution in Georgia over his involvement in Trump’s coup attempt.
As he faces that legal peril, the Supreme Court has now effectively upheld Carter’s earlier rulings finding that Eastman committed a crime. The lower court ultimately found that the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege allowed the Jan. 6 committee to pierce veil of privilege and obtain Eastman’s emails.
The longtime conservative movement attorney also faces a less clear legal threat from Jack Smith’s investigation. Eastman has confirmed via his attorneys that he is co-conspirator 2 in Trump’s election reversal indictment.