The reason that America is still exists is that Mike Pence was just too much of a square to get down with the sweet revolutionary vibe, Daddio. At least, that’s the latest version of the story from former Donald Trump attorney John Eastman.
Technically, Eastman wasn’t a White House attorney. He’s a Federalist Society chairman, the chair of the National Organization for Marriage, a board member of the Claremont Institute, and the director of a “foundation” where its entire role is to use the courts to attack valid elections. (No, really.) He wasn’t an official White House adviser. He wasn’t Trump’s personal attorney or a member of his campaign team. Eastman only stepped into the White House to serve as Trump’s very special insurgency adviser—the guy who dreamed up the plan for Mike Pence to pull the plug on democracy.
Eastman’s plan was simple enough: In his scheme, Pence would just declare that there were questions about the electoral slates in seven states. He would then leave those states out of the count and declare Trump the “winner” with 232 electoral votes. If anyone thought there was a problem with this, Eastman had a backup plan for Republicans in the House to vote Trump in easy peasy.
Everything about Eastman’s plan was either plain wrong, immoral, or illegal—often all three. Eastman himself seemed to acknowledge as much when he told National Review that he was really just noodling around as part of a discussion for Trump’s legal team, that the plan wasn’t serious, and that “anybody who thinks that that’s a viable strategy is crazy.”
Except that when he thought he was talking to Trump supporters, rather than the National Review, Eastman turned right around and agreed that his legal reasoning was “totally solid” and that the reason America still exists is because Pence was an “establishment Republican” with a “myopic view.”
This isn’t the first time Eastman defended his advice. Far from framing the plan as a thought experiment, Eastman’s memo to Trump actually argues that Pence can count the votes any way he wants. This, says Eastman, is based on “very solid legal authority, and historical precedent.” As for any member of Congress concerned about how Pence might be ignoring multiple states to give Trump a pseudo victory with a fraction of the vote, Eastman declares that “all the Members of Congress can do is watch,”
Speaking with reporters from Undercurrent.tv who approached Eastman as faux fans, the Claremont attorney was happy to champion his plan. Rather than saying that it wasn’t viable, or that anyone would be crazy to take that advice, Eastman insisted that he had been proven right and that it was only the “beltway Republicans” who didn’t really get “the movement” that kept his plan from being implemented.
Eastman also referenced a story in The Atlantic that he claimed called on Kamala Harris to use the strategy that he had outlined to stop Trump from winning in 2024. What that article actually describes isn’t a Trump victory at the polls—it’s a “bloodless coup” in which statehouse Republicans and Trump-supporting state officials flood Washington with pro-Trump electors even in states where he clearly lost.
Even then, the article states that Harris’ role is primarily limited to rejecting invalid challenges, and makes it clear that there’s little she could do if Republicans at the state level refuse to do what Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and others did in 2020: follow the law instead of Trump. Raffensperger is being primaried by a Trump supporter who maintains that Trump “won” Georgia. Secretaries of state and election officials across the nation—even in states that Trump really did win—are finding themselves bullied, challenged, and threatened by Trump supporters who are running for office on the basis of handing Trump the victory no matter what those pesky voters do.
When it comes to the law, Eastman’s memo is ridiculous. So is the idea of sending pro-Trump slates to Washington in states where he lost the vote.
But ridiculous and illegal aren’t the same as impossible. Or even unlikely. Because Eastman is right about one thing: Mike Pence didn’t execute his plan because Pence, at least the 2020 Pence, was a old-school Republican in the sense that he believed the Constitution was slightly more than a rag to wipe his feet—though coming to that conclusion required a lot of thought on the part of Pence.
For 2024, Republicans are past all that.
According to The Washington Post, the House select committee on the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol is expected to subpoena John Eastman. It will be interesting to see how he defends his plan to them.