The conservative law school professor advising then-President Donald Trump on his effort to overturn the 2020 election appeared to know his legal theory was bogus, the Jan. 6 committee argued Thursday.
During its third day of hearings, the committee presented evidence that lawyer John Eastman, who publicly championed the theory that former Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to certify fake slates of electors to keep the former president in power, admitted privately that it likely wouldn’t stand up in court.
Eastman acknowledged to Pence attorney Greg Jacob that he believed the Supreme Court would likely unanimously strike down the plan, Jacob testified. Eastman seemed to be more confident in an alternate idea for delaying the certification of the election: Pence could send election results back to the states.
Both of those efforts were part of a broader push to stop Congress from certifying the election results ― a normally routine procedure that on Jan. 6, 2021, sparked an insurrection. The Jan. 6 committee argued on Thursday that Trump and his allies, Eastman included, spurred on the attack on the Capitol by pushing lies about the election.
The “fake elector” theory was part of that plot. After Trump lost the 2020 election to now-President Joe Biden, Republicans in seven battleground states devised plans to form alternate slates of electors to help overturn the results.
Eastman told Jacob that if Pence did certify these electors, the Supreme Court would side against him.
“[Eastman] initially started, ‘Well, maybe you’d only lose 7-2,’ but ultimately acknowledged that, no, we would lose 9-0. No judge would support his argument,” Jacob testified.
That admission could be used to argue that Trump’s outside attorney knew he was committing a crime when he pressured the vice president to obstruct the electoral vote count.
The committee also revealed Thursday that Eastman requested a pardon from Trump in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works,” Eastman wrote in an email to Trump’s former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
The committee pointed to a memo by Eastman that argues there’s a “historical precedent” for the vice president to reject state’s electors, an idea that former federal judge Michael Luttig shot down unequivocally in his testimony.
Luttig, an adviser to Pence, said there was no such precedent for a vice president deciding the outcome of the election.
“There was no support whatsoever, either in the Constitution of the United States nor the laws of the United States for the vice president, frankly, ever to count alternative electoral slates from the states that had not been officially certified,” Luttig testified.
Jan. 6 committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R.-Wyo.) said Eastman was well aware that there was no precedent for his theory.
“This was false, and Dr. Eastman knew it was false,” Cheney said. “In other words, it was a lie.”