Why the Jan. 6 Committee Handed Out a Criminal Referral to a Former California Law Professor

Former Chapman University professor John Eastman is among the individuals whom the Jan. 6 committee has recommended face federal criminal charges for their roles in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The committee recommended that Eastman and former President Trump should face federal criminal charges for obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States. It recommended prosecuting “Trump and others” on two additional charges: conspiracy to make a false statement and inciting, assisting, or aiding or comforting an insurrection.

“[Trump] entered into agreements, formal and informal, with several individuals who assisted him with his criminal objects,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said during Monday’s committee hearing.

In a statement after the referrals were announced, Eastman said the referral of charges from the committee to the Justice Department “carries no more legal weight than a ‘referral’ from any American citizen.”

“In fact, a ‘referral’ from the January 6th committee should carry a great deal less weight due to the absurdly partisan nature of the process that produced it,” Eastman said.

Who is John Eastman?

Eastman’s theory that former Vice President Mike Pence could reject or delay the certification of state electors was essential to Trump’s effort to convince his base that the election was being stolen. Eastman was central to “the development of a legal strategy to justify a coup,” according to Douglas Letter, the general counsel to the House of Representatives.

Eastman was also involved with a scheme to appoint alternate slates of Trump electors who could vote him back into office after he lost the 2020 election.

Eastman is already under investigation. Justice Department investigators searched his cellphone and emails earlier this year. In a March court filing, the Jan. 6 committee alleged Eastman and Trump were a part of a “criminal conspiracy” to overturn the 2020 election.

“[Eastman’s] role was not simply as an advisor; he spoke at the rally on the morning of January 6, spreading falsehoods to tens of thousands of people,” the committee wrote.

Eastman was interviewed by the committee in 2021, but invoked his 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Along with Trump and Eastman, the Committee recommended charges against former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Dept. official Jeffrey Clark and former Trump Lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Eastman has deep ties to Southern California and the conservative movement.

What’s Eastman’s background?

Eastman, 62, was born in Lincoln, Neb., and holds a bachelor’s degree in politics and economics from the University of Dallas, a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School and a doctorate in government from the Claremont Graduate School in Claremont.

Before joining Chapman University’s law school in 1999, Eastman clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (Thomas’ wife, Ginni, was also a focus of the Jan. 6 committee’s investigations.)

Eastman is currently a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank, and founded the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.

During his speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, Eastman demanded that Pence “let the legislatures of the states look into this, so we get to the bottom of it, and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not.”

More than 140 Chapman University faculty members and three trustees signed a letter stating Eastman’s actions “should disqualify him from the privilege of teaching law to Chapman students and strip him of the honor of an endowed chair.”

Eastman called the letter “defamatory” and resigned before the faculty senate voted on a resolution against him. Both sides agreed not to sue each other, but Eastman’s connections to Chapman have affected the university’s reputation.

When did Eastman become acquainted with President Trump?

Eastman first officially entered the Trump orbit in the days after the Nov. 3, 2020, election when he was invited by people close to the then-president to help craft a legal memo challenging the election results in Pennsylvania.

In early December 2020, Trump asked him to bring legal action challenging the election directly to the Supreme Court. Eastman made two filings to the court, but the effort quickly failed.

What did Eastman do?

Eastman crafted a legal memo outlining the most politically palatable options for Trump to overturn the 2020 election. He suggested that Pence send the electoral college votes back to states for “recertification” by a new set of electors.

Depositions released by the committee show that Eastman was part of several meetings with Pence’s staff, including a Jan. 4, 2021, Oval Office meeting with Trump and Pence to discuss what authority Pence had.

Eastman “admitted in advance of the 2020 election that Mike Pence could not lawfully refuse to count official elector votes. But he nevertheless… deployed a combination of bogus election fraud claims and the fake electoral ballots to say that Mike Pence, presiding over the joint sessions, could reject legitimate electoral votes for President-elect Biden,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) during Monday’s hearing.

Emails released by the committee also show Eastman arguing with Pence’s staff during the riot about what the vice president should do when Congress returned to finish counting the votes.

The committee also highlighted Eastman’s effort to overturn the election even after the attack on the Capitol happened.

“The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way, so that the American people can see for themselves what happened,” Eastman wrote in an email to Greg Jacob, Pence’s lawyer.

Once the riot at the Capitol ended, Eastman again emailed Jacob to say the vice president should refuse to certify the election and send it back to the states.

Under the Constitution, the vice president oversees the counting of the electoral college votes.

The House recently passed legislation declaring that the role of the vice president in electoral-vote counting is purely ceremonial. The measure is expected to pass the Senate in a spending bill later this month.

Did Eastman stop his efforts to overturn the election after Jan. 6, 2021?

No. Back in June, the committee released video showing a deposition by former White House attorney Eric Herschmann, who discussed a phone call from Eastman the day after the riot. Herschmann remembered Eastman asking him about preserving documentation dealing with the Georgia election that Eastman alleged could potentially be used in an appeal.

“And I said to him, ‘Are you out of your effing mind?’” Herschmann said in the video. “I said, ‘I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: ‘orderly transition.’”

Herschmann demanded that Eastman repeat those two words back to him — Eastman eventually did.

“I said, ‘Good, John. Now I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’re ever getting in your life: Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You’re going to need it,’” Herschmann said. “And then I hung up on him.”

Has Eastman’s opinion of the Jan. 6 events changed?

In a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal, Eastman denies that he claimed Pence “could unilaterally reject electoral votes and simply declare President Trump reelected.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

John Eastman’s Sorry Excuse for Jan. 6

The Trump adviser claims he didn’t tell Pence to reject electors. Here are receipts.

In the lead-up to the Jan. 6 riot, John Eastman gave President Trump legal advice that was terrible, and now he’s trying to argue it was merely awful. In a letter to these pages on Nov. 14, Mr. Eastman, a former law professor of some distinction, denies he argued that Vice President Mike Pence “could unilaterally reject electoral votes and simply declare President Trump re-elected.”

Mr. Eastman claims he made only a modest proposal, Swiftian allusion intended: “The advice I gave to then-Vice President Pence was that he accede to requests from hundreds of state lawmakers to delay proceedings for a short time so that they could assess the effect of illegalities on the conduct of the election.” Mr. Eastman specifically refers to a conversation during an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4, 2021.

But his position is contradicted by the sworn testimony of Mr. Pence’s legal counsel, Greg Jacob. According to Mr. Jacob, Mr. Eastman argued at the Jan. 4 meeting that it would, in fact, be “legally viable” for the VP to reject electors. Mr. Eastman advised against this plan only because it would be “less politically palatable.” That concession apparently didn’t last.

The debate was renewed the next morning, Jan. 5. “When Mr. Eastman came in,” Mr. Jacob testified, “he said, I’m here to request that you reject the electors. So on the 4th, that had been the path that he had said, I’m not recommending that you do that. But on the 5th, he came in and expressly requested that.” A piece of Mr. Jacob’s handwritten notes is in the public record. The top reads: “John Eastman meeting 1/5/21.” Then: “Requesting VP reject.”

There also are the two memos Mr. Eastman produced in advance of Jan. 6, which circulated among Mr. Trump’s advisers. “Here’s the scenario we propose,” the first one says. The VP “announces that because of the ongoing disputes,” seven states have “no electors that can be deemed validly appointed,” and “Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.” The second memo offers a menu of options. One is for Mr. Pence to outright reject electors.

A final thing to point out is that the argument in Mr. Eastman’s letter isn’t a defense. It’s more like a plea bargain to a lesser transgression against the American republic. Asking Mr. Pence to reverse the 2020 election directly was appalling. Asking the VP to stall the Electoral College, so that state legislatures could reverse the 2020 election, was also appalling.

Suppose Mr. Pence had tried to delay. The result would have been a constitutional crisis. Federal law sets the time for choosing presidential electors, and it’s Election Day in November. Mr. Trump wanted state lawmakers to overrule the will of the voters two months later, and two weeks before the scheduled transfer of power, despite no proof of widespread voter fraud. Doing this could have led to violence.

Also, the 12th Amendment says the Electoral College shall be tallied “in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives.” Democrats controlled the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not have permitted any joint session to reconvene and tally those phony electors. With no Electoral College count by noon on Jan. 20, who’s next in line to become President? The Speaker of the House. Or perhaps the Supreme Court would have intervened.

Getting this history right matters. “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Jan. 5, 2021, the day before the riot. He didn’t come up with that idea himself.

Click here to read the full article in the Wall Street Journal

Eastman Takes the Fifth With Jan. 6 Committee

The attorney, who helped former President Donald Trump contest the 2020 election, asserted his right against self-incrimination in a Dec. 1 letter to the Capitol riot panel.

John Eastman, the attorney who helped former President Donald Trump pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election, has asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to a letter he delivered to the Jan. 6 committee explaining his decision not to testify.

“Dr. Eastman hereby asserts his Fifth Amendment right not to be a witness against himself in response to your subpoena,” his attorney, Charles Burnham, wrote in a letter to Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) dated Dec. 1.

“Members of this very Committee have openly spoken of making criminal referrals to the Department of Justice and described the Committee’s work in terms of determining “guilt or innocence,” Burnham continues. “Dr. Eastman has a more than reasonable fear that any statements he makes pursuant to this subpoena will be used in an attempt to mount a criminal investigation against him.”

Eastman’s decision is an extraordinary assertion by someone who worked closely with Trump to attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. He met with Trump and pushed state legislative leaders to reject Biden’s victory in a handful of swing states and appoint alternate electors to the Electoral College, effectively denying Biden’s victory.

The former Chapman University law professor also pressured Pence, who is constitutionally required to preside over the Electoral College certification on Jan. 6, to unilterally refuse to count some of Biden’s electors and send the election to the full House for a vote — or delay long enough to give states a chance to submit new electors.

Eastman also spoke at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally alongside Rudy Giuliani.

Most of Burnham’s letter makes procedural objections to the structure of the Jan. 6 committee, focused on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to reject Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s appointees to the panel.

“The lack of a ranking minority member makes it impossible for this Committee to comply with clearly applicable House rules on subpoenas and depositions,” he writes.

Burnham also complains that the Capitol riot committee conducts its depositions in secret.

Click here to read the full article at Politico.com