Newly uncovered emails from key figures on former President Donald Trump’s legal team show that his lawyers viewed embattled Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as a powerful secret weapon and perhaps their only influential legal ally in their plan to overturn the 2020 election.
According to an email exchange from December 2020 obtained by congressional investigators and reported on by Politico, at least two lawyers on Trump’s legal team believed that Thomas was their “only chance” to legally challenge the results of the election before the election certification date rolled around.
“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,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in an email addressed to Trump’s legal team on December 31, 2020. “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 – do you agree, Prof. [John] Eastman?”
“I think I agree with this,” replied Eastman, a Trump lawyer who was key in crafting the plan to overturn the election. “If the court were to give us ‘key,’ that might be enough to kick the Georgia legislature into gear because I’ve been getting a lot of calls from them indicating to me they’re leaning that way.”
In a separate email to Trump lawyers the same day, Chesebro wrote, “if we can just get the 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.”
The emails, which Eastman had attempted to keep hidden, surfaced as the result of an order from a federal judge last month directing him to turn the communications over to the January 6 committee.
Thomas is the justice assigned to oversee issues coming out of Georgia in the Supreme Court, and would have overseen any attempts by the Trump team to elevate their lawsuits regarding the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia to the Supreme Court.
Thomas also appears to have close ties to the effort to overturn the 2020 election and has been an ally to Trump in the past. His wife had leveraged her political connections to text and email high-level officials to push them along in their effort to stop the certification of the election results. Eastman was among the group of Trump allies with whom Thomas’s wife had discussed the plan.
Meanwhile, Thomas was the lone justice to vote with Trump in his bid to block White House records from being sent to the January 6 committee earlier this year and has refused to recuse himself from other Trump- and January 6-related cases, despite his close personal ties to the Trump movement. Though that decision happened after those emails were sent, the lawyers were likely aware of Thomas’s political leanings and the sway that his wife could have in that realm.
Other recently-released emails show the Trump legal team’s frenetic efforts around one of their legal challenges in Georgia, perhaps confirming that Trump was aware that voter fraud statistics often cited by him and his team were false.
Around the same time as the Thomas emails, Trump’s lawyers were scrambling to get the then-president to sign onto documents that they worried had voter fraud statistics that could invite legal trouble for him down the line.
“I have no doubt that an aggressive DA or US Atty someplace will go after both the President and his lawyers once all the dust settles on this,” Eastman wrote to two other Trump lawyers.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) November 2, 2022
They ended up removing the figures, which led them to another problem: they were facing a tight deadline, but Trump was on a plane without access to a notary. “There’s no one they can call to come to the White House that’s a notary?” one GOP-tied attorney wrote. “I don’t know how we file without it. Presidential trip to a UPS store?”
They ultimately got a White House clerk to attest to the document signing, which ended up being key to the federal judge’s decision to order Eastman to turn over the emails. The emails, the judge wrote, “show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public.”
We need to update you on where Truthout stands.
To be brutally honest, Truthout is behind on our fundraising goals for the year. There are a lot of reasons why. We’re dealing with broad trends in our industry, trends that have led publications like Vice, BuzzFeed, and National Geographic to make painful cuts. Everyone is feeling the squeeze of inflation. And despite its lasting importance, news readership is declining.
To ensure we stay out of the red by the end of the year, we have a long way to go. Our future is threatened.
We’ve stayed online over two decades thanks to the support of our readers. Because you believe in the power of our work, share our transformative stories, and give to keep us going strong, we know we can make it through this tough moment.
If you value what we do and what we stand for, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our work.