Coup plotter John Eastman turned over letters to the House select committee on Jan. 6, but asked a judge to stop anyone from reading them. Eastman was too late in getting in his ridiculous request, and now, as the first few of those letters start to leak out, we’re beginning to see why.
Politico reports that the Jan. 6 committee received copies of eight emails between Eastman and Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro. These letters were reportedly part of the documents turned over to the House committee after District Court Judge David Carter determined they were relevant to determining whether Eastman, Donald Trump, and others had committed a crime in seeking to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election.
What’s in this first batch boils down to two conspirators seeking to add another member to their team—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Eastman and Chesebro apparently recognized early that, since they had no real legal standing for their case, what they needed to do was pull in the one man who could help them. In particular, what they wanted was a ruling from Thomas that would force the Georgia legislature to acquiesce to the scheme of appointing false electors.
Chesebro: “We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt...”
This was, of course, a lie. Chesebro knew it, Eastman knew it, Trump knew it. They knew that time was closing in, they had no evidence of fraud, and every case they had taken to court had been a loser. Which is what made this attempt to pull in Thomas their next move.
Chesebro: [Thomas is] “… our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”
As the justice tagged with handling issues arising in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Eastman and Chesebro knew that if they had a route to get something on the justice’s desk—exactly as Trump did recently, when Thomas helped bring his “special master” case in front of the full Supreme Court.
But what Chesebro and Eastman were after was more than just having Thomas punt the case along to his colleagues. They needed some language they could use to get state legislators to go along with Trump’s scheme to put false electors forward on Jan. 6. They made it absolutely clear that the purpose of this entire effort was to block the final, formal reporting of the electoral results.
Chesebro: "[I]f we can just get this case pending before the Supreme Court by Jan. 5, ideally with something positive written by a judge or justice, hopefully Thomas, I think it’s our best shot at holding up the count of a state in Congress.”
And, of course, they had reasons to be hopeful. Not only was Thomas extremely friendly to Trump’s position, but Eastman had also been in direct contact with Thomas’s wife.
A series of emails were exchanged between Virginia “Ginni” Thomas and Eastman aimed at promoting the Jan. 6 scheme. In addition, Chesebro and Eastman exchanged notes in which they discussed what they called a “heated fight” in the Supreme Court over supporting Trump’s election fraud conspiracy. Eastman argued that they needed to “help” the members of the Court to “do their duty.”
The letters between Eastman and Chesebro make it clear they thought there was a good chance they could get what they needed from Thomas, and that they believed other members of the Court could be convinced to help Trump.
But the letters also seem to show that Eastman knew what they were doing was illegal, and that if they failed in their coup attempt, there would be a cost.
Eastman: “I have no doubt that an aggressive DA or US Atty someplace will go after both the President and his lawyers once all the dust settles on this.”
And in what may be a close competitor to Four Seasons Landscaping for the funniest incident in this whole tragicomic effort to destroy the nation, there was a moment when the fate of Trump’s whole plot seemed to turn on finding one irreplaceable man. Not a Supreme Court justice, but someone even more valuable.
As the attorneys pilled up their lawsuit and frantically called Trump aboard Air Force One to work out the details, they ran into a roadblock that could scotch the entire plan. All they needed was Trump’s signature … and a verification seal from a notary public. Only it was New Year's Day, and Trump’s notary was off until the following Monday.
Trump attorney: “There’s no one they can call to come to the White House that’s a notary? I don’t know how we file without it. Presidential trip to a UPS store?”
Then there is a conversation about where a notary can notarize using a Zoom call. Because that’s just how surreal all this really became. The fate of the nation possibly hanging on whether a notary public could provide a virtual stamp to a document intended to kick off a coup over a webcam.
That a group of people sat around the White House, drafting statements they knew to be false, with the absolute justification of overturning the outcome of the election and overthrowing the government of the United States, and then spent the next hours fretting over how to get it notarized seems like a threat to reality itself.
It was eventually notarized by a clerk at the White House. It didn’t generate the statement Eastman and Chesebro were seeking, though none of that stopped them from going forward with the false elector scheme.
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The 2022 midterms are just around the corner, and you sent us a ton of fantastic questions for this week’s episode of The Downballot. Among the many topics we cover: which states are likely to report results slowly—and how will those results change over time; the House districts that look like key bellwethers for how the night might go, and which might offer surprises; why and how Democrats make the hard decisions on which races to triage; the top legislative chambers to keep an eye on; and plenty more!