Opinion | The devastating case of the January 6 hearing against Trump’s accomplice

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Thursday’s hearing of the select committee investigating the insurgency took us inside the White House before the attack on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, and the star was John Eastman, author of the blueprint for Donald Trump’s effort to oust Trump. the 2020 elections.

The committee and the witnesses offered a devastating case against Eastman, one that reinforced what was already known and offered new information that made the conduct of the president and his favorite lawyer seem even worse, and perhaps criminal.

But as you ponder the case against Eastman, remember this: Eastman functioned as an agent for Trump throughout. Trump directly instructed his vice president, Mike Pence, to heed Eastman’s advice and carry out his plan.

Thursday’s hearing developed two big new arguments about Eastman.

First, it showed that Eastman may have fully understood that his scheme, which involved Pence delaying the electoral count in Congress, giving states time to certify fake Trump voters, based on a fictitious legal theory, could lead to the violence. And Eastman apparently shrugged off this possibility.

This came from White House counsel Eric Herschmann, who testified that he directly warned Eastman that executing his plan “would cause riots in the streets.”

“And he said words like: ‘There has been violence in the history of our country to protect democracy or to protect the republic,’” Herschmann continued.

Riots, you see, would be a small price to pay in the service of carrying out the coup.

Similarly, Greg Jacob, Pence’s senior adviser, testified he told Eastman that if Pence followed his advice, the resulting conflict “may well have to be decided on the streets.” If Eastman was worried about this, he didn’t slow down his plot.

Of course, we had street violence. But it was the other way around: Trump incited the violence with the apparent purpose of pressuring Pence to complete the plan that Eastman had hatched.

In fact, as the hearing also showed, Eastman made a last ditch effort to get Pence to delay the election count. after the mob had already razed the Capitol.

The second big revelation was that in the days after January 6, Eastman sought a pardon of Trump. It’s hard to say what this means: Eastman didn’t get one, and he can simply say that he thought he would be prosecuted, as a martyr, by the incoming regime. But he seems to reveal awareness of legal vulnerability.

It is important to remember that Eastman was not a rogue trader. He was operating under the direction of Trump. Pretty much everything Trump did: pressure election officials to find bogus votes, pressure the Justice Department to fabricate bogus evidence of voter fraud, pressing state legislatures to certify bogus voters—was in service of the latest plan outlined by Eastman.

On January 4, Trump brought Eastman and Pence together in the Oval Office and allegedly instructed Pence to go along with Eastman’s plan:: “You really need to listen to John. He is a respected constitutional scholar. He listen to it.

Then, on January 6, Pence aides lashed out at Eastman, claiming that he was personally to blame for the violence, having pushed Trump’s scheme to its fullest extent. One of them described Eastman’s advice as “a snake in the ear of the President of the United States.” That was completely accurate.

Trump and Eastman were co-conspirators. Remember that when a federal judge recently ruled that laws were violated in connection with January 6, he asserted that both Trump and eastman may have committed crimes.

In those court papers, the judge wrote that they may have committed “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” He suggested that they reached an agreement to obstruct a legal function of government, the counting of electoral votes by Congress, and that both “probably knew” that the plan was an illegal violation of the Voter Count Act of 1887. Corrupt pressure on Pence may have constituted the required “act” in support of that conspiracy.

Of course, the Justice Department cannot view Eastman’s conduct in this way. And Matthew Seligman, a legal scholar and expert on the ECA, says Eastman can argue that he was simply advising his client, Trump, that he had the option of trying to get Pence to delay the election count, believing in good faith that the ECA might be unconstitutional and Pence might not have to follow him.

“Eastman’s defense will consist of wrapping himself in his role as a lawyer. How could he be a criminal just giving legal advice to his client? Seligman told us.

But such a defense could fail, as this legal advice may have been knowingly false and offered to further a conspiracy to thwart the vote count and break our constitutional order.

“As the committee hearing showed, this was knowingly providing a false legal pretext to violate the Constitution while the president was frantically trying to stay in power after losing the election,” Seligman said. “That is the most deeply corrupt intent possible in our constitutional system.”


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