The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack fought tooth and nail for access to John Eastman’s post-election emails. The latest reporting from Politico underscores why congressional investigators were so eager to review the materials.
Attorney John Eastman urged Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to retabulate the state’s popular vote — and throw out tens of thousands of absentee ballots — in order to show Donald Trump with a lead, according to newly unearthed emails sent in December 2020, as Trump pressured GOP lawmakers to subvert his defeat. This recalculation, he posited in an exchange with one GOP state lawmaker, “would help provide some cover” for Republicans to replace Joe Biden’s electors from the state with a slate of pro-Trump electors, part of a last-ditch bid to overturn the election results.
Just so we’re all clear, according to the official tally, Joe Biden’s Democratic ticket narrowly won Pennsylvania in 2020, prevailing by nearly 82,000 votes. That included, of course, Keystone State voters who cast absentee ballots.
According to the recommendations Eastman shared with Republican legislators in Pennsylvania, GOP officials had the “authority” to recalculate the vote totals, “discount” some absentee ballots, and claim that the Republican ticket which lost the state actually won, reality be damned.
At that point, again according to a December 2020 email Eastman sent to a Republican legislator, Pennsylvania’s GOP-led legislature could endorse a slate of fake electors.
His use of the word “authority” was especially galling: The desperate attorney effectively made the case, in writing, that Republican legislators were well within their rights — without any meaningful pretext — to ignore thousands of legally cast votes and put aside the results of a free and fair democratic election, on their own say so.
For months, Eastman has insisted that his post-election work was grounded in provocative-but-real legal scholarship. Such claims have now been thrown out the window. A Washington Post analysis explained this morning that the newly released emails “reveal his willingness to simply invent rationales” for Trump to be given electors he didn’t earn.
Worse, the analysis added, those rationales, created out of whole cloth, “are themselves indefensible.”
In case anyone needs a refresher about why the Republican attorney has become such a notorious figure, let’s circle back to our earlier coverage. It was in the summer of 2020 when Eastman published a bizarre piece that argued that Vice President Kamala Harris was ineligible for national office because her parents immigrated to the United States.
Soon after, he began working with Trump — the then-president saw him on Fox News and was impressed — and as part of that work, Eastman filed a brief in December 2020 on Trump’s behalf that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 presidential election. (It was filled with factual errors — including an obvious one literally on the first page.)
Soon after, he authored what’s become known as the Eastman Memo, which effectively outlined how Republicans could execute something resembling a post-election coup.
This, naturally, made him a witness of great interest to the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, but when Eastman sat down with congressional investigators, the Republican lawyer reportedly pleaded the Fifth — by some accounts, nearly 150 times.
The panel proceeded to subpoena Eastman’s records, most notably the emails from his time working with Trump to overturn the election. The Republican lawyer tried to block that effort, claiming the materials were protected by attorney-client privilege.
It led the Jan. 6 committee to argue that communications between attorneys and clients are not protected if they’re discussing committing crimes. In late March, a federal judge agreed, concluding, “Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”
All of this made Eastman look pretty awful. Politico’s new reporting manages to make him look even worse.