january 6 hearings

Trump’s Coup Architect Asked for a Pardon After the Plot Failed

Trump’s trusted legal team of John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Jim Bourg/REUTERS

Much of the scrutiny on the third day of public hearings of the House January 6 Committee has centered on John Eastman, the Trump-aligned
law professor who wrote the playbook for the unsuccessful plot to have Mike Pence void the 2020 election results. Shortly after the Capitol riot, when it was clear that Eastman’s plan had failed, he came up with a bailout option for himself, according to emails presented by the committee on Thursday. “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works,” he wrote, rather casually, to Rudy Giuliani.

Neither attorney ultimately received a pardon from Trump, which meant that Eastman exercised his right under the Fifth Amendment not to potentially incriminate himself during deposition before the committee:

A pardon couldn’t have hurt. Recent details have fleshed out Eastman’s high level of involvement in the coup attempt. On Thursday, the New York Times reported that he had been working with another Trump campaign attorney to try to lobby the Supreme Court to find a way to contest the election. Eastman saying he had inside information on closed deliberations inside the Court resulted in Ginni Thomas (the conspiracy-minded wife of Justice Clarence Thomas), with whom Eastman has corresponded, possibly expecting a deposition. “We think it’s time that we, at some point, invite her to come talk to the committee,” Bennie Thompson, the committee chair, said Thursday. (Eastman denies trying to influence the Thomas family.)

Much of the hearing on Thursday was designed to show that Eastman — and pretty much everyone else around him — doubted the legality of his plan to stop the certification, which Ed Kilgore notes appears to be part of an effort to convince the Justice Department to criminally prosecute Eastman and Trump. Representative Pete Aguilar displayed a memo, written by Eastman in October 2020, showing that the attorney doubted that Pence could choose which electors counted and which ones did not. Pence’s former legal counsel Greg Jacob said that Eastman admitted to Trump that his idea violated the law. Eric Herschmann, a lawyer who was working in the White House at the time, said in a recorded deposition that Giuliani “seemed to admit the theory was wrong” on the morning of the riot. Herschmann had had some select advice for Eastman: “Get a great fucking criminal defense lawyer.” It looks like Eastman tried for a pardon instead.

Trump’s Coup Architect Asked for a Pardon After Plot Failed