His obsessively precise written opinions for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond had marked Luttig as one of the leading conservative intellectuals in the legal system — the most conservative judge on the most conservative court in America.
More than a quarter-century later, it was Luttig (pronounced LEW-tig) who would get a late-night call to come to the aid of his tribe: Mike Pence, in his final days as vice president, would seek out Luttig’s legal advice on the night of Jan. 4, 2021, as Donald Trump pressured him to help overturn the results of the 2020 election. But Pence and his allies would need more from Luttig than his private counsel.
They needed his imprimatur.
What began as a late-night phone call has turned into the quest of a lifetime for Luttig, the pinnacle of a long and storied career, highlighted last summer by his stirring appearance before the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol and by the committee’s final report released in late December, which mentions his name more than 25 times.
“Donald Trump and his supporters and allies are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” Luttig told the committee on live television.
But Luttig wasn’t just condemning Trump and Trumpism. He was trying to bring a nation to its senses.
“We Americans no longer agree on what is right or wrong, what is to be valued and what is not, what is acceptable behavior and not, and what is and is not tolerable discourse in civilized society,” he said. “America is adrift.”
Months removed from that star turn, Luttig’s worries have begun to ebb ever so slightly. He now envisions a nation one day disentangled from Trump’s influence, even as the former president launches a new campaign. It’s a future Luttig is trying to shape in court cases, in legislative chambers where he’s helped craft election law changes and in professorial public appearances where he explains in painstaking detail how American democracy, though imperiled, can still be preserved. [Continue reading…]