June 16, 2022 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
All eyes on coup mastermind John Eastman
Witness: “I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life: Get a great f-ing criminal defense lawyer."
The first thing to know about today’s hearing by the J6 committee is John Eastman, the coup-memo mastermind, is in deep deep doo doo.
The former professor of law at Chapman University and fellow at the Claremont Institute apparently thought it was a good idea to explain in writing that the J6 insurrection might not have happened if not for a mulish vice president refusing his role in a bloodless coup.
Eastman had no qualms about saying in front of witnesses that it’s OK for a Republican vice president to choose who’s going to be president but nuh-uh for VPs from the other side. He also said – to the former president – that his attempted coup would perhaps maybe I dunno yeah definitely violate the Electoral Count Act of 1887.
That Eastman asked for a pardon doesn’t look good either.
Eastman had no qualms about saying in front of witnesses that it’s OK for a Republican vice president to pick and choose who’s going to be president but nuh-uh for VPs from the other side. He also said – to the president – that his attempted coup would perhaps maybe I dunno yeah definitely violate the Electoral Count Act of 1887.
Former White House counsel Eric Herschmann said he told Eastman this: “I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’re ever getting in your life: Get a great f-ing criminal defense lawyer. You’re going to need it.” (Evidently counsel advised mum’s the word. In deposition, Eastman invoked his Fifth Amendment rights 100 times.)
Eastman’s hare-brained scheme came down to this: Mike Pence, in his ceremonial role as president of the Senate, in the counting of the electoral votes, could do one of two things on his own, Eastman said.
He could reject the votes, thus declaring Donald Trump the winner.
Or he could send the votes back to the five to seven states that had determined the 2020 election’s outcome. (From there, it’s hard to tell what would have happened. Either the states would resend alternate slates of electors loyal to Trump, a dubious option. Or the election would have been thrown to the House of Representatives, where each state would get one delegate to vote to settle matters.)
Either way, Pence said no.
He said no from the start, according to Greg Jacob, former counsel for the office of the vice president. Jacob was today’s star witness. Thanks to his and others’ testimony, we know that those who did not believe that Mike Pence could decide the election on his own, included, in addition to the entire White House counsel’s office, the following:
- Mark Meadows.
- Rudy Giuliani.
- Donald Trump.
- And John Eastman himself.
Indeed, Eastman conceded numerous time and in various ways that his conspiracy would not survive legal scrutiny or the Supreme Court, Jacob said. Eastman vacillated between requesting that Pence reject the votes outright, which he deemed too aggressive an option, or suspend the vote count, which he deemed more politically palatable.
Having gotten nowhere with White House attorneys, state elections officials and his own vice president, Trump mounted a pressure campaign on Pence knowing that neither statutory law nor the Constitution gave him the authority to do what Trump demanded.
Trump did it anyway.
The J6 committee made must-see good TV by illustrating how, starting in December, the former president began pressing Pence via television remarks, Twitter and in private meetings. On the morning of January 6, 2021, Trump called to ask Pence one last time. According to witnesses, Trump called him a coward, a wimp and the p-word.
Then Trump took the stage at the Ellipse. According to lead presenter California Congressman Pete Aguilar, the first draft of his speech made no mention of Pence. Trump revised it, however. Then on stage, he ad libbed. Video footage shows that with each mention, the crowd got more jacked up before being sent down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Most dramatic, I think, was the demonstration of cause and effect regarding Trump’s tweet at 2:24 p.m. By that time, Pence had begun counting the votes. White-power terrorist group the Proud Boys had already breached security and were pouring into the building. White House staffers told J6 investigators there was general agreement that Trump ought to send out a tweet in order to calm things down.
He was told an insurgency was brewing. He wrote:
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or incorrect ones which they were previously asked to certify. USA demands the truth!”
That, according to a witness, “was like pouring gasoline on the fire.”
Congressman Aguilar said an informant told the FBI that the Proud Boys were prepared to capture and kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi if they found her. Same for Mike Pence. A makeshift gallows was raised on the Capitol grounds while the mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence!”
Like I said, deep deep doo doo.
And John Eastman isn’t alone.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.