There was big news this week on what is known ominously and euphemistically as “the democracy beat,” and like all such news, it was bad. On Tuesday, CNN published a two-page memo written by a lawyer for then-President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign during the run-up to the January 6 certification of the Electoral College results. In six concise bullet-points, the memo outlined a process by which Vice President Mike Pence could use his powers on January 6 to throw out the electors from seven states that President Joe Biden won in the 2020 election. The plan counted on Republicans in those states to submit competing sets of electors, based on the false and fabricated premise that Trump had somehow won those states.
The memo’s author, John Eastman, is a lawyer—at the time, he was even a tenured professor at Chapman University School of Law—but what he created is not a legal document. It is by its nature extra-legal: It is a blueprint for a coup.
Eastman anticipated the possibility that some people would be mad. “Howls, of course, from the Democrats,” he predicted in bullet-point four, immediately following the line, “Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.” Yeah, man, no kidding.
It is a little weird to read all these months later about something that was also plain as day at the time. Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of a Barton Gellman article in The Atlantic that laid out the strategy that Trump, with Eastman and others’ help, would pursue. Mother Jones and others covered closely the efforts from the Trump campaign to throw out votes in courts and disenfranchise entire states. My colleague Becca Andrews was even in Atlanta on December 14 when Georgia Republicans showed up at the Capitol to endorse their own pretend slate of Trump electors—a bizarre sideshow that was nonetheless part of a scattershot, collective pretext for the strategy Eastman spelled out. January 6 happened on live TV. But what was described on those couple of pages is what all the stunts and subterfuge were building up to—notes, as it were, on a criminal fucking conspiracy. [Continue reading…]