Trump lawyer John Eastman spoke on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast on January 2 to describe how to steal the election. Eastman informed Bannon that Vice President Mike Pence had the ability to reverse Biden’s win.
The conversation was part of Trump and his closest friends’ very public push to persuade Pence to steal the election during the certification ceremony.
One of Eastman’s outlandish theories was that the vice president has the unilateral authority to accept or reject electoral votes at his discretion, or, failing that, to “send the election back” to Republican-controlled swing state legislatures, which would disregard the will of their constituents and replace Biden’s electors with Trump’s.
Eastman was Trump’s go-to guy for self-serving constitutional nonsense. His goal was to concoct complicated pseudo-legal arguments in order to excuse Trump’s attack on democracy. Eastman was the author of the infamous memoranda presenting his imaginative legal arguments for why the vice president had the authority to unilaterally reelect himself.
Eastman also co-wrote a strategy for Trump to employ the military, police, and criminal gangs to maintain control after a contested election. Eastman even spoke at Trump’s Ellipse event, accusing Trump of election fraud before Trump unleashed the mob on the Capitol.
To comprehend January 6, you must consider both an inside and an outside game. The inner plan was to steal the election by procedural means. The outer game was to assemble a throng to intimidate authorities into complying. Eastman was a conceptual architect of both the paper coup attempt and the strategy for political repression that Trumpists anticipated would follow the heist.
Everything boils down to the Big Lie of significant Democratic voting fraud in battleground areas. Trump exploited the fiction of a rigged election to rally his fans in Washington for a “wild demonstration” on January 6, whipping them into a frenzy and unleashing them on the Capitol. Eastman used the same deception to explain his plans to overturn the election via procedural means.
Eastman proposed multiple avenues to override the decision of the people in his various letters and public appearances, but his end reasoning was always the same: Democratic “fraud” in the swing states invalidated their certified slates of Biden electors.
As a result, he claimed, Mike Pence had the right to unilaterally disregard the electoral votes and count alternate slates of phony electors in their place, or to disregard the votes from those states entirely, denying either candidate the necessary 270 votes and throwing the election to the state delegations in the House.
According to Eastman’s second letter, Trump would win if “the Republicans in the State Delegations stand firm.” The GOP caucus was highly split at the time about whether to support Trump’s paper coup, and Pence was signaling that he was unwilling to perform his assigned role.
As a result, additional physical threat on the exterior is required.
This is consistent with what another major conspirator has claimed about why he gathered a crowd on January 6. “We […] schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander explained his motivations. He hoped to “change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”
After a lengthy diatribe against Mike Pence’s weakness, Trump’s last directive to the crowd before sending them down Pennsylvania Avenue was that they must show “boldness” to “weak Republicans.”
Trump’s order resembled Eastman’s words in the lengthier of the two letters, in which he defined his own plan as “BOLD, certainly.”
The term “coup” brings up thoughts of a military takeover, but a procedural coup accompanied by the threat of violence is nevertheless considered a coup.
Denialists attempt to mislead by pointing to the rebels’ light armament and stating, “You don’t think they meant to overthrow the US government with that, do you?” However, there was never any intention of violently seizing control of the government. Insurgents just needed to push Pence and House Republicans into overturning Trump’s victory.
Trump’s counsel were fully aware that overturning a free and fair election would elicit widespread indignation and demonstrations. Eastman’s model for retaining power by using the military, police, and criminal gangs would work just as well or better after a procedural coup as it would after an uncertain Election Night.
A rigged election would send Biden supporters out into the streets, where the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers would be waiting, ready to initiate or escalate violence wherever they could. This was the kind of upheaval that Eastman cautioned local authorities to be prepared to quash.
I’m looking forward to hearing what Bannon and Eastman have to say before the January 6 committee, but what they’ve already said is extraordinarily incriminating.