Emails show Trump lawyers mocked his wealth — then tried to block the emails from Congress

One attorney wrote that he was doing his "part to curry favor" with Trump by lining his "empty" pockets

Published October 4, 2022 3:28PM (EDT)

Donald Trump and John Eastman (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and John Eastman (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump's attorneys joked about his wealth in private emails leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 

The emails between Trump lawyers Bruce Marks and Kenneth Chesebro in December 2020 were among the evidence that attorney John Eastman, who helped craft Trump's Jan. 6 strategy, concealed from the Jan. 6 select committee, claiming they were covered by attorney-client privilege or attorney work-product privilege.

"A shame you are not in DC and could contribute to violation of the emoluments clause," Marks wrote to Chesebro on Dec. 30 referencing the allegations that Trump was using his D.C. hotel to receive foreign payments.

In response, Chesebro wrote that he was staying at Trump's D.C. hotel and doing his "part to curry favor" with Trump by lining his "empty" pockets.

Kyle Cheney, the senior legal affairs reporter for Politico, posted the email thread on Twitter with further updates on the matter. 

On Monday, the Jan. 6 select committee urged U.S. District Court Judge David Carter to evaluate 562 still-unproduced documents that they believe may contain material that should have been disclosed to them months ago.

Eastman handed over a small number of emails last week as the select committee planned to ask for additional correspondences that he made while working at Chapman University in California while helping Trump overthrow the election. 

The emails also revealed an attempt by Eastman to shield a signed Trump photograph of a rally crowd. "TIMES 50 SUCH EVENTS – NO WAY THIS LOSES," Trump wrote. Eastman tried to withhold the email that delivered the image to Trump's White House administrative assistant Molly Michael, claiming it was protected as an attorney-work product. 

The committee asked Carter to look through the final batch of undisclosed emails to ensure the privilege claims are legitimate, or whether he is using it as an excuse to withhold significant evidence in the case.

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When asked about the emails, Marks said the exchange was simply "tongue-in-cheek" banter and defended himself by referencing outdated limits on Congress' power to "expose for the sake of exposure." 

"The January 6 Committee deliberately attempting to embarrass and intimidate President Trump's attorneys is no less Un-American than the [Joseph] McCarthy inspired tactics of the House Un-American Activities Committee," Marks told Politico. "The mid-term elections cannot come soon enough to sweep the Democrats out of power in Congress."

"At the time of the emails on December 30 and 31, 2020, Professor Eastman, Ken Chesebro, and I were representing President Trump in litigating a U.S. Supreme Court petition filed on December 23," Marks said. "These emails were part of a privileged exchange. Regardless of whether specific tongue in cheek emails were protected by the attorney-client privilege, they were clearly protected by First Amendment rights of political association and free speech."

The emails from Chapman University and the University of Colorado Boulder have become important pieces of evidence surrounding Trump's efforts to remain in power at all costs. The select committee is working to obtain more of Eastman's emails before the end of the current congressional session.

Eastman's emails show communication with aides to then-Vice President Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani and other Trump lawyers. Carter previously said that Eastman and Trump likely conspired to commit felony and obstruction of Congress, and said that Eastman's claims of attorney-client privilege were invalid.

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

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Capitol Riot Donald Trump January 6 Kenneth Chesebro Politics