Judge Rules Trump's Jan. 6 Actions Were 'More Likely Than Not' a Felony

Former President Donald Trump "more likely than not" committed a felony in trying to obstruct Congress on January 6, 2021, a judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge David Carter attributed the ruling to evidence and said that the congressional committee investigating the Capitol attack could obtain emails by John Eastman, a lawyer for Trump, Reuters reported.

Carter's ruling is a sign of progress for the Jan. 6 Select Committee, which has been trying to gain access to emails that Eastman has so far withheld while citing attorney-client privilege.

Carter wrote in his ruling that the illegality of Trump's plan, described earlier in the document as a "plan to disrupt the electoral count," was "obvious."

"Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections," the ruling read. "Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President [Mike Pence] to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election ... Every American--and certainly the President of the United States-- knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed."

Trump Jan. 6 Judge
Former President Donald Trump "more likely than not" committed a felony in trying to obstruct Congress on January 6, 2021, a judge ruled Monday. Above, Trump speaks at a rally at the Atlanta Dragway on March 26, 2022, in Commerce, Georgia. Megan Varner/Getty Images

"Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021," the ruling added.

The judge, noting that his role was limited to issuing a ruling on the email dispute, called for the U.S. to investigate the Capitol attack and hold those responsible to account.

"If Dr. Eastman and President Trump's plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution. If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself," Carter wrote.

A statement posted on the website of the law firm Burnham & Gorokhov, PLLC—attorney Charles Burnham represents Eastman—said that Eastman's role as an attorney gives him the "responsibility to protect the confidences of his clients to the fullest extent of the law."

Eastman's case against the investigating committee was his attempt at heeding that responsibility, "not an attempt to 'hide' documents or 'obstruct' congressional investigations, as the January 6th committee falsely claims," the statement read.

It added that Eastman's record as an attorney is "unblemished" and he "respectfully disagrees with the judge's findings" but plans to comply with the court's order.

In a statement issued this month, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney said that the facts they've obtained so far "strongly suggest that Dr. Eastman's emails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of electoral college ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power."

Neither Trump nor Eastman is facing charges in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. The committee has accused the former president and his inner circle of conducting a "criminal conspiracy" to halt the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

The committee aired the direct allegation in a filing this month that said evidence indicated that Trump, Eastman and several others "entered into an agreement to defraud the United States by interfering with the election certification process, disseminating false information about election fraud, and pressuring state officials to alter state election results and federal officials to assist in that effort."

While neither Carter nor the House committee can prosecute Trump or others accused of involvement, the Department of Justice is able to do so, CNN reported.

Newsweek reached out to a spokesperson for Trump and the Jan. 6 Select Committee for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Update 3/28/22, 4:33 p.m. ET: This story was updated with comments from the law firm representing Eastman.