John Eastman (L), flanked by fellow Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, speaks at rally seeking to overturn US Presidential election, Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021 (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
Donald Trump’s lawyer John Eastman pushed Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 Presidential election with a six-step plan, two days before the attack on the US Capitol.
Eastman’s two-page memorandum sought the disqualification of electors from seven states which had voted for President-elect Joe Biden, when Congress met on January 6 to confirm Biden’s 306-232 victory in the Electoral College.
Eastman presented the plan during a Trump-Pence meeting in the White House on January 4. Trump told Pence, “You really need to listen to John. He’s a respected constitutional scholar. Hear him out,” according to authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
The lawyer wrote:
The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking for permission — either from a vote of the joint session or from the [Supreme] Court. The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter. We should take all of our actions with that in mind.
Under Eastman’s plan, Pence’s dismissal of the seven states’ electors would give Trump a 232-222 lead. The Vice President would declare that neither candidates had reached the victory threshold of 270 electors, taking the process to the House of Representatives. With Republicans controlling 26 state delegations in the House, Trump could retain the White House.
But the proposal opened with a huge error undermining its attempted logic.
Eastman wrote, “7 states have transmitted dual slates of electors to the President of the Senate.”
In fact, none of the seven states had presented an alternative slate.
From Plan to Insurrection
Pence consulted former Vice President Dan Quayle and the Senate Parliamentarian, who firmly said that he had no authority in the Congressional session beyond chairing and counting the votes.
GOP Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, despite being diehard supporters of Trump, quashed the Eastman memo.
Lee told Trump’s lawyers, trying to overturn the outcome in Georgia, “You might as well make your case to Queen Elizabeth II. Congress can’t do this. You’re wasting your time,” according to Woodward and Costa.
But Trump persisted. Outside the White House on January 6, he instructed his audience to “Stop the Steal” and march on the Capitol to stop the certification of President-elect Biden. He invoked the plan of Eastman, who preceded him on the podium:
John is one of the most brilliant lawyers in the country, and he looked at this and he said, “What an absolute disgrace that this can be happening to our Constitution.”
And he looked at Mike Pence, and I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so.
Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All he has to do, all this is, this is from the number one, or certainly one of the top, Constitutional lawyers in our country. He has the absolute right to do it.
Less than two hours later, hundreds of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol, beating police officers and threatening to kill Pence and legislators.