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President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump in the Cabinet Room at the White House on March 11, 2020 in Washington, D.C.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images, file

Why Trump must have hated Michael Luttig's Jan. 6 testimony

The conservative judge reportedly advised Vice President Mike Pence not to go along with Trump's election schemes.


Michael Luttig, one of the star witnesses in Thursday’s Jan. hearing, likely drove Trump up a wall this afternoon. 

Luttig is the staunchly conservative former federal judge who reportedly advised Vice President Mike Pence and his staff that, contrary to Trump’s claims, Pence had no authority to block Congress from certifying Trump’s 2020 election loss. 

But Trump seems to think the conservative legal apparatus exists solely to serve him. He’s installed attorneys general to do his political bidding and appointed many federal and Supreme Court judges. Going further, the former president touted these appointments as his crowning achievement and made it clear that he expects specific rulings from his nominees.

Trump seems to think the conservative legal apparatus exists solely to serve him.

In contrast, Luttig embodies a conservative movement that, contrary to Trump’s wishes, has priorities that don’t center him. 

Indeed, during Thursday's testimony, Luttig slowly but surely eviscerated Trump and his inner circle's belief belief that Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the election results.

My colleague Chris Hayes did an excellent job breaking down Luttig’s right-wing bonafides on Wednesday night’s episode of “All In.” In essence, when it comes to Republican politics, Luttig isn’t new to this — he’s true to this. As Hayes pointed out, Luttig worked in the Justice Department for President George H.W. Bush. He helped get Justice Clarence Thomas confirmed in the Senate. And Luttig’s former court clerks include Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz and John Eastman, the Trump world lawyer who (incorrectly) argued Pence could overturn the election results. 

All of this is important background info, because it’s essential Americans know Luttig is far from liberal. In fact, given his political alliances and judicial record, he’s likely in agreement with a number of Trump’s conservative policies, and he’s almost certainly a supporter of Trump’s conservative Supreme Court picks. 

In a recent PBS interview, Luttig wouldn’t reveal whether he thought Democrats were right to impeach Trump (either time), and wouldn't say outright that challenging election results was a bad thing — only that Trump’s specific claims were ridiculous. Before the election, he even disagreed with his wife's concerns that Trump would try to stay in office if he lost. But Luttig says he eventually had to admit she was right, after Trump himself hinted he wouldn’t leave peacefully

 “At that point my wife came to me again and said — as wives are wont to do— ‘I told you so.’” Luttig said. “And as husbands are not wont to do, I said at that point, ‘I think you might be right.’”

Luttig’s testimony likely adds serious insult to injury as far as Trump is concerned. And it's both a reminder that there are limitations to the loyalty he receives — and that there are still conservatives willing to ignore him.

The House Jan. 6 committee is holding its fourth public hearing on Tuesday, June 21 at 1 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real-time on our liveblog at