June 16, 2022 | Reading Time: 2 minutes

The coup conspirator confesses

John Eastman admitted he knew his scheme to overturn the 2020 election was illegal. He admitted he told Donald Trump the same.


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Editor’s note: Today’s edition is a little late, because we have been glued to the TV screen watching the J6 committee unpack how and why the J6 insurrection was planned, mobilized and executed by the former president. I’ll have something to say later. For now, here’s Lindsay Beyerstein’s report. I’m making this available to everyone, subscribers and free signups. If you can, please support our work today! –JS

The J6 committee is methodically slamming the former president’s remaining escape hatches. Its third televised hearing deftly wove together expert and eyewitness testimony, video and Donald Trump’s own tweets to put him at the very center of the failed coup. 

Officially, Thursday’s hearing was about whether Vice President Mike Pence had the power to single-handedly decide the winner of the 2020 election. The answer was a resounding “no.” The public learned today what those who have been following the J6 committee have long known: that the scheme outlined in the Eastman memos was a crackpot plan that even their author acknowledged was illegal. 

Eastman said he told Trump the coup was illegal.

Trump tried anyway. 

Knowingly, willfully, unlawfully. 

Just as importantly, today’s hearing established that Trump waged a public and private pressure campaign to get Mike Pence to follow John Eastman’s plan to overturn the election during the electoral certification. This campaign was waged in person, over the phone and on Twitter. The committee shared evidence of every step. 

The hearing’s star witness was Greg Jacob, former counsel for the vice president. One of the most intriguing aspects of his testimony was a review of an email exchange between Jacob and Eastman that took place while Pence and Jacob were hiding from the mob. 

“And thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege,” Jacob wrote to Eastman from a secure location. Eastman shot back that the siege was happening “because you and your boss did not do what was necessary.” 

There you have it in Eastman’s own words: the mob stormed the Capitol because Pence refused to play his assigned role in the coup

Eastman would know. He was on stage with Trump at the Ellipse when the former president explained to the crowd that Pence had to send the election back to the states so that he could “win” the election.

“[The states] want to recertify,” Trump told the crowd. “But the only way that can happen is if Mike Pence agrees to send it back. 

“Mike Pence has to agree to send it back.”

In another email written from hiding, Greg Jacob asked Eastman whether he had advised the former president that the former vice president lacked the power to unilaterally overturn the election. 

“[Trump]’s been so advised, as you should know, because you were on the phone when I did it,” Eastman wrote back. “But you know him. Once he gets something in his head, it’s hard to get him to change course.” 

During this exchange, Jacob forced the former law professor to concede that his plan violated the Electoral Count Act. Jacob also testified that Eastman admitted that not a single Supreme Court Justice would credit Eastman’s far-fetched theory that the vice president can decide who wins an election.

Eastman said he told Trump the coup was illegal.

Trump tried anyway. 

Knowingly, willfully, unlawfully. 

Lindsay Beyerstein covers legal affairs, health care and politics for the Editorial Board. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, she’s a judge for the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Find her @beyerstein.

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