One indication of the general competence of the Donald Trump-backing legal team that planned out and attempted to execute an actual coup rather than abiding Trump's 2020 presidential election loss might be the unfathomable inability of coup architect John Eastman to shut the hell up.
It seems almost certain that Eastman, described as Co-Conspirator 2 in the federal indictment of Trump for attempting to overturn the legitimate election results, will himself be charged by the still-working grand jury. In a newly released interview, Eastman seems bent on providing that grand jury with as much evidence of his intent as possible.
In a newly released installment of an interview with Claremont Institute Chairman Thomas Klingenstein, Eastman made it clear that his motive in overturning the election was the "existential threat" posed by the "Democrat Party." In his mind, this justified the extreme measures the co-conspirators took to block Trump's loss even if every courtroom in the country was telling him that his supposed "fraud" evidence was a pile of conspiracy-minded bullshit. A partial transcript, via Right Wing Watch:
We are talking about whether we are gonna, as a nation, completely repudiate every one of our founding principles, which is what the modern left wing which is in control of the Democrat Party believes – that we are the root of all evil in the world and we have to be eradicated. This is an existential threat to the very survivability, not just of our nation, but of the example that our nation, properly understood, provides to the world. That’s the stakes. And Trump seems to understand that in a way a lot of Republican establishment types in Washington don’t.
And that means a stolen election that thwarts the will of people trying to correct course and get back on a path that understands the significance and the nobility of America and the American experiment is really at stake and we oughta fight for it.
But Eastman also helpfully made it clear that he did not give a particular damn if the co-conspirators' plan to change or throw out state electoral results until Donald Trump was declared the victor resulted in widespread public violence. He suggested that it would be the U.S. military's role to shut down protests and restore order: "One hopes that our military still understands their obligation, and the chain of command that stops at the top, with the commander in chief."
Eastman's interviewer, Klingenstein, is, again, the head of the Claremont Institute, the same far-right think tank that Eastman's "Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence" is tied to. The Claremont Institute is perhaps best known for its fascist insistence that conservatism is more important than democratic elections themselves, and that the threat of conservatism not being America's governing movement is existential enough cause to scrap democracy where it needs to be scrapped.
It is a blazingly fascist group of people. In that respect, Klingenstein is the best interviewer his friend Eastman could hope for.
But what comes across most in that portion of the interview is Eastman's continued fumbling and dodging as he tries mightily to insist, repeatedly, that if the military started shooting people in the streets to enforce a Jan. 6 Republican announcement that Actually Trump Won, it would have nothing to do with him. That was "a different department," Eastman insisted. "It wasn't my role to address those things, and I didn't give them much consideration."
This must have been at least a little disappointing to Klingenstein as head of a think tank that argues democracy might need to die a hot, bullet-riddled death now that it's become clear voters aren't going to abide the far-right nationalist vision that the People Who Look Like Dennis Prager insist is the nation's only legitimate path. If you have a whole think tank devoted to arguing the necessity of anti-democratic coup, you might hope that your fellow think-tankers would have a better plan for the resulting civil war than the breezy note that such strategies would be hashed out in "a different department."
Once again, the core of Eastman's interview was his repeated insistence that the possible ascension of a non-Republican government was his own motivation for attempting to nullify the election's results. It wasn't a loyalty to Trump, but the belief that the "left" was so existential a threat as to justify extreme action, even after the courts told Trump's hoax-backing teams to pound sand over and over again and there were no legitimate arguments left to make. Even as Eastman rambled about long-debunked hoaxes like supposedly smuggled ballots and Dinesh D'Souza films, he appeared to emphasize that yes, he absolutely intended to toss the Constitution aside that day.
Look, our founders lay this case out. The prudential judgment they make in the Declaration of Independence is the same one. There’s actually a provision in the Declaration of Independence that says, you know, a people will suffer abuses while they remain sufferable—or tolerable, while they remain tolerable—but at some point the abuses have become so intolerable that it is not only their right but their duty to alter or abolish the existing government.
So that’s the question. Have the abuses and the threat of abuses become so intolerable that we have to be willing to push back.
If the Constitution wouldn't allow Eastman and his co-conspirators a means of keeping Republicans in power, then the Declaration of Independence would be his new measure. So it was a coup then, pure and simple.
The interview has enough to suggest Eastman might be full-on delusional, but only in the same manner as Fox News and decades of conservative disinformation have turned the entire movement delusional. Eastman continues to cling to hoaxes that were objectively stupid the moment they were first introduced, and his evidence for the supposed "existential" threat of the "left" consists solely of society acting in ways that he does not approve of.
In this, Eastman seems indistinguishable in his ideology from the far-right mass murderers that have justified everything from the Oklahoma City bombings to the summary execution of shoppers or worshippers. The supposed "left" is a monolithic enemy responsible for everything, an enemy that wants to "repudiate every one of our founding principles" and that considers America "the root of all evil." It is the same attachment to delusional versions of politics that inspires extremism everywhere, and one that Eastman used to justify his own appearance at the Jan. 6 rally meant to send an armed mob directly to the Capitol's steps.
But special counsel Jack Smith certainly has his evidence here, and evidence for ratcheting up the charges as well. Eastman's interview seems to have plain enough admissions that he did intend to overthrow the elected government based on hoaxes and criminal plots. It isn't clear why he isn't facing the same seditious conspiracy charges that members of the resulting mob have now been found guilty of.
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