Judge unseals new details of contacts among Rep. Perry, Trump-connected attorneys

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décembre 16, 2022

A federal judge revealed Friday that earlier this year she granted Justice Department investigators access to emails between three Trump-connected attorneys and Rep. Scott Perry as part of the federal investigation into election subversion efforts by the former president and others.

At the request of DOJ, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell unsealed a June opinion in which she determined that 37 emails sent among Trump-era Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, his aide Ken Klukowski and conservative attorney John Eastman and Perry (R-Pa.) — another top Donald Trump ally who chairs the House Freedom Caucus — were not protected by attorney-client privilege.

Notably, Howell indicated in her opinion that investigators had prioritized accessing any emails sent to or from Perry’s account.

Howell also unsealed a second opinion, issued in September, in which she determined that 331 documents from Clark — whom Trump nearly installed as acting attorney general as part of his bid to seize a second term — were similarly not protected by attorney-client privilege.

The documents were largely versions of a potential autobiography Clark had outlined in mid-October 2021, writing that recounted a bizarre effort to have Trump install him as acting attorney general in order to get more traction to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. The outline included a description of a pivotal Jan. 3, 2021, meeting between Trump and senior DOJ officials where almost the entire top echelon of the department threatened to resign if the then-president put Clark in charge.

Clark’s legal team waded into the fight over the apparent book outline. But Howell seemed to disapprove of aspects of the approach Clark’s lawyers took to the document dispute, describing their strategy at one point as “throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.”

The information revealed in the opinions is the most significant insight yet into what prosecutors are doing with evidence they have obtained in their review of figures associated with Trump’s quest to remain in power despite losing reelection.

FBI agents seized Eastman’s phone in June, the same week they searched Clark’s home. Perry’s phone was also seized by FBI agents in August. Eastman lost a legal bid to reclaim his phone, and Perry, who mounted a similar effort, quickly dropped it.

The judge’s June order appears to have been issued without the involvement of Clark, Klukowski, Eastman or Perry and was based on filings from a « filter team » that DOJ set up to handle the potentially sensitive information.

Howell’s opinion indicated that the filter team, set up to vet any seized communications for potential attorney-client privilege, had reviewed 130,000 documents for attorney-client and attorney work-product privilege.

According to Howell’s opinion, the filter team flagged three exchanges between Eastman and Perry that occurred between Dec. 11 to Dec. 13, 2020. But she described them as nonsubstantive and said they merely referenced a phone call.

The filter team also flagged three emails between Klukowski and Perry as well — including one on Nov. 11, 2020, in which Klukowski attached a document titled “Electors Clause/The Legislature option.” The judge said the emails were non-substantive and did not implicate attorney-client privilege.

In addition, the filter team flagged 19 exchanges between Clark and Perry that occurred between June 2020 and after the 2021 inauguration of Joe Biden.

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