Court Battles

John Eastman says FBI frisked him, took his phone

John Eastman, a Trump campaign lawyer who pushed to overturn the 2020 election results, said in a new court filing on Monday that the FBI seized his iPhone and frisked him outside a restaurant during the execution of a search warrant last week.

Eastman, who has featured prominently in this month’s public hearings of the Jan. 6 House select committee, filed a motion for the return of his property in the U.S. District Court in New Mexico, arguing the warrant was unlawful because it was overly broad, nonspecific and lacked probable cause, violating his Fourth Amendment rights.

He also said the warrant execution violated his Fifth Amendment rights because agents compelled him to unlock the iPhone with Face ID, forcing him in effect to “testify.”

“By its very breadth, the warrant intrudes on significant privacy interests, both of [Eastman] and of others whose communications with him are accessible on the seized cell phone,” his lawyers wrote in the motion.

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for comment.

Eastman was a central player in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, drafting memos arguing that then-Vice President Mike Pence could reject states’ electors and effectively decide the next president himself.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, rioting particularly highlighted Eastman’s role during its third hearing this month.

The warrant on Eastman was executed the day before the Justice Department conducted a search at the home of Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department lawyer specializing in environmental law who Trump weighed installing as attorney general because he was willing to forward investigations into his baseless claims of election fraud.

Eastman, who sought a pardon from Trump after the events of Jan. 6, was ordered by a judge this month to turn over troves of emails and documents related to the House panel’s investigation after he sued to block a congressional subpoena.

The motion filed by Eastman said his phone contained emails and messages related to Jan. 6 and the House panel’s investigation but argued they were protected by attorney-client privilege.

According to Eastman’s legal team, FBI agents working with the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General approached Eastman outside a restaurant on Wednesday to execute the search warrant.

The agents frisked Eastman and took his iPhone Pro 12 before forcing him to unlock it with facial recognition software.

Eastman said he did not see a search warrant until after his phone was seized. The warrant allowed for the seizure of “any electronic or digital device” and “all information in such devices,” according to Eastman’s court motion on Monday.

Just hours after the search at Clark’s home Thursday, the committee revealed there appears to be a connection between the two men.

Kenneth Klukowski began serving at the DOJ just 36 days before President Biden’s inauguration, joining Clark’s staff on December 15, 2020. 

Jan. 6 panel Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said that Klukowski had been working with Eastman prior to joining the department and showed evidence suggesting their relationship continued while Klukowski was working under Clark.

She presented a Dec. 28 email from Trump ally Ken Blackwell requesting that Pence receive a briefing from Klukowski and Eastman and warning “to make sure we don’t over expose Ken given his new position.”

“This email suggests that Mr. Klukowski was simultaneously working with Jeffrey Clark to draft the proposed letter to Georgia officials to overturn their certified election and working with Dr. Eastman to help pressure the Vice President to overturn the election,” Cheney said.

Rebecca Beitsch contributed. Updated at 7:41 p.m.

Tags Capitol breach Capitol insurrection Capitol riot Iphone seizure jan. 6 Jan. 6 Capitol attack Jan. 6 capitol riot Jan. 6 hearings Jeffrey Clark John Eastman John Eastman Mike Pence New Mexico Search warrant
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