There are few people who better define the modern Republican Party than John Eastman. After beginning his legal career as a clerk to Clarence Thomas, Eastman moved on to become a regular “legal adviser” on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. He’s argued before the Supreme Court on the topics of federal spending (lost), same sex marriage (lost), abortion (lost), and immigration (lost). This, of course, cemented his reputation as a Republican constitutional expert, and he settled into the fabric of right-wing “institutes” and “think tanks” by taking prominent positions at the Federalist Society and National Organization for Marriage, the Claremont Institute, and the Public Interest Legal Foundation—a group that works 24/7 on bringing lawsuits over election results.
Eastman also lost to Kamala Harris in the 2010 race for California attorney general. Actually Eastman didn’t make it past the GOP primary, but he apparently bore enough of a grudge that in 2020, he wrote an editorial arguing that Harris, who was born in Oakland, is not a U.S. citizen because … who the hell knows. But Newsweek published it.
All of this perfectly positioned Eastman to be The Man when Donald Trump needed an adviser who could give him the best, worst advice. Because a guy who lost every case he ever argued before a conservative-dominated Supreme Court, who argued that the current vice president isn’t a U.S. citizen, and who has a job manufacturing claims of election fraud is clearly exactly who Trump needed.
Eastman produced exactly what might be expected: a plan in which Mike Pence simply didn’t count the states where Trump lost. Easy peasy fascism squeezy! And Eastman insists that it would have worked, too, if only Pence weren’t such a square.
And now he’s going to get to explain all this to the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.
NBC News indicates that Eastman should expect to collect his new legal document—in the the form of a subpoena—sometime next week. Finding a legitimate reason why Eastman cannot testify will be difficult; finding an illegitimate reason will be old hat for the man who lost every major case of his career.
The committee is certainly most interested in Eastman’s meetings with Trump, and in the memo he circulated through the White House providing a step by step plan for Pence to overturn the election and throw the future of the nation into what can most charitably be called “disarray.” That plan called for Pence to declare that there were “multiple slates of electors” from states including Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia; to declare that their votes were being set aside; then to simply stop counting when he got to a point where Trump was ahead. At that point, Pence was to declare Trump the “winner.”
Eastman anticipated that this would generate “howls” from Democrats, but that Republicans would be fine with it. And he even had a plan for quieting those upset Democrats by allowing the House delegations—where Republicans have a one-state advantage—to vote again under a procedure where each state’s House delegation gets a single vote. Again, Eastman expected that every Republican in every single state would go along with this scheme, handing Trump the “victory” over the voters.
The committee would also probably like to talk to Eastman about his participation in a Jan. 2 Zoom call in which he and Trump spoke with Republican state legislators in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—apparently in anticipation of getting to exercise the “stop counting when we’re ahead” scheme.
They’d be even more interested to hear the topic of Eastman’s Jan. 5 meeting with Pence, where Eastman informed a man from Indiana that, despite what he might have heard from every single person he had consulted—including his own attorneys, a collection of actual legal scholars, and even Dan Quayle—Pence really did have the power to hand the White House to anyone he wanted. As The New York Times noted, Eastman and Trump teamed up in an attempt to pressure Pence into going along with the plan, telling him that he had the “ultimate authority” to decide which electoral votes were in and which were out.
All of which should make for some very interesting questioning when Eastman comes before the committee.