Judge David O. Carter of the Central District of California on Monday delivered a court ruling in which he stated that it was "more likely than not" that former President Donald Trump and attorney John Eastman had committed crimes in their attempts to stay in power despite losing the 2020 presidential election.
The full 44-page opinion is filled with scathing assessments of Trump and Eastman's actions leading up to the January 6 riots at the United States Capitol.
Below are some of the most damning sections.
1.) Carter says that Trump likely knew his efforts to overturn the election were not legitimate and that his claims of voter fraud were nonsense.
Although some of Trump's defenders have argued that he sincerely believed his wild claims of election fraud, Carter argues that he was told that they were wrong by so many different people within his own administration that he could not have reasonably believed them.
"President Trump likely knew the justification was baseless, and therefore that the entire plan was unlawful," Carter writes. "Although Dr. Eastman argues that President Trump was advised several state elections were fraudulent, the Select Committee points to numerous executive branch officials who publicly stated and privately stressed to President Trump that there was no evidence of fraud. By early January, more than sixty courts dismissed cases alleging fraud due to lack of standing or lack of evidence."
2.) Carter says Eastman almost certainly knew what he was proposing was illegal -- and he uses Eastman's own notes to prove it.
Although Eastman has publicly stated that he sincerely believed it was legal to have Vice President Mike Pence reject certified election results, Carter uses some of Eastman's private notes to show he didn't really believe that.
"The plan not only lacked factual basis but also legal justification," he writes. "Dr. Eastman’s memo noted that the plan was 'BOLD, Certainly.' The memo declared Dr. Eastman’s intent to step outside the bounds of normal legal practice: 'we’re no longer playing by Queensbury Rules.' In addition, Vice President Pence 'very consistent[ly]' made clear to President Trump that the plan was unlawful, refusing 'many times' to unilaterally reject electors or return them to the states."
3.) Carter finds Eastman was consistently advised that his plan was illegal, but he tried to enact it anyway.
Many conservative legal minds, even those sympathetic to Trump such as former Attorney General Bill Barr, argued that the plan to have Pence throw out electoral votes had no basis in the Constitution.
Because of this, writes Carter, Eastman cannot plausibly say that the issue is open for sincere debate.
"The evidence also demonstrates that Dr. Eastman likely knew that the plan was unlawful," explains Carter. "Dr. Eastman heard from numerous mentors and like-minded colleagues that his plan had no basis in history or precedent. Fourth Circuit Judge Luttig, for whom Dr. Eastman clerked, publicly stated that the plan’s analysis was 'incorrect at every turn.' Vice President Pence’s legal counsel spent hours refuting each part of the plan to Dr. Eastman, including noting there had never been a departure from the Electoral Count Act and that not 'a single one of [the] Framers would agree with [his] position.'"
4.) Carter concludes that Trump and Eastman simply wanted to conduct a coup -- the facts and the law be damned.
The most scathing part of Carter's ruling comes toward the end when he sums up the evidence of Trump and Eastman's conduct.
"Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history," he writes. "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."