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Judge rejects ex-Trump attorney's motion to block search of phone

A federal judge has ruled against an emergency request of former Trump lawyer John Eastman (shown) for the return of his phone or a temporary restraining order to protect it from a search after federal agents seized it last month in investigation of Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA
A federal judge has ruled against an emergency request of former Trump lawyer John Eastman (shown) for the return of his phone or a temporary restraining order to protect it from a search after federal agents seized it last month in investigation of Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA

July 16 (UPI) -- A federal judge in New Mexico has rejected former Trump lawyer John Eastman's emergency motion for federal agents to return or refrain from searching his phone, which they seized last month in the probe of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Eastman filed the emergency motion earlier this month based on his allegations in a lawsuit that federal agents violated his constitutional rights when they seized his phone and "forced" him to unlock it on June 22 after he left a restaurant in New Mexico, court records show.

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Judge Robert Brack ruled against his request for the government to return his phone or enter a temporary restraining order to block them from searching the phone until the court rules on the issues raised in his lawsuit filed on June 27.

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Brack explained in a 12-page opinion and order filed on Friday that he ruled against Eastman because he did not establish "a likelihood of success on the merits" of his constitutional claims, or "right to relief from an immediate, irreparable harm."

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Eastman argued that the agents' seizure of his phone violated his First Amendment right to political association.

Brack said that this argument in particular did not show "likelihood of success" because Eastman had not shown "any specific associational interest ... nor particular harm likely to result from" the seizure of his phone.

The judge similarly rejected his Fourth Amendment claim against overbroad and unreasonable search.

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He also noted that agents will obtain a second warrant before searching his phone because the investigative team said it needed "further order of a court of competent jurisdiction," before the review.

Eastman had also argued a violation of attorney-client privilege protected under the Sixth Amendment, but Brack said that "Eastman does not point to specific documents in his email that are protected by privilege."

Brack added that prosecutors usually form a "Filter Team" to protect privileged information.

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"Because there is no evidence that the government has searched the phone or plans to search it without the benefit of a Filter Team, and because the warrant specifies that no search of the phone will occur until further order of the court, Eastman fails to show a likelihood of success on his claim under the Sixth Amendment," Brack wrote.

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Brack also found that his Fifth Amendment claim, that agents violated his rights against self-incrimination by forcing him to open his phone, had "not shown strong likelihood of success on the merits."

On June 28, Eastman dropped a separate lawsuit to keep the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack from accessing his communications due to attorney-client privilege, a court filing showed. Eastman said he dropped the suit because the committee was only interested in his call logs and was not actively seeking content.

Last month, former aides to former Vice President Mike Pence testified to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riots said Eastman acted as an intermediary for former President Donald Trump in his attempts to pressure Pence to overturn the 2020 election.

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