Buried in a court filing late Wednesday from the January 6 committee is an explosive email exchange between Greg Jacob, a top lawyer for then-Vice President Mike Pence, and John Eastman, a lawyer who was working with then-President Donald Trump’s legal team, that absolutely nails the culpability of Eastman in the events of that terrible day.
The email exchange began on January 5, with Eastman attempting to push the idea that Pence had the constitutional authority to reject certain electors from swing states when the votes were counted in Congress the next day.
On January 6 at 12:14 pm ET, as it was becoming increasingly clear that there was a Trump-inspired riot brewing at the US Capitol, Jacob was unequivocal in his rejection of Eastman’s theories.
“I have run down every legal trail placed before me to its conclusion, and I respectfully conclude that as a legal framework, it is a results-oriented position that you would never support if attempted by the opposition, and essentially entirely made up,” Jacob wrote Eastman. “And thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.”
To which Eastman responds: “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 the American people can see for themselves what happened.”
In his next response, Jacob drops the hammer: “The advice provided has, whether intended or not, functioned as a serpent in the ear of the President of the United States, the most powerful office in the entire world. And here we are.”
Jacob went on:
“Respectfully, it was gravely, gravely irresponsible for you to entice the President with an academic theory that had no legal viability, and that you well know we would lose before any judge who heard and decided the case. And if the courts declined to hear it, I suppose it could only be decided in the streets. The knowing amplification of that theory through numerous surrogates, whipping large numbers of people into a frenzy over something with no chance of ever attaining legal force through actual process of law, has led us to where we are.”
Yes, that’s it exactly.
Eastman’s infamous memo – in which he outlined how Pence could overturn the Electoral College results – was, as Jacob rightly noted, the stuff of debate in a law school class, maybe, but certainly not the framework on which an election should be decided.
And Jacob nails the role the memo – and Eastman more generally – played in the run-up to January 6. He handed a drowning man a rope. Trump, in the days and weeks after the election, was desperate to find something, anything that would allow him to make the case that a) he hadn’t really lost and b) he could stay on as president.
It was during that same time period that Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to urge him to overturn the results. “All I want to do is this,” Trump told Raffensperger. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.” Trump was engaged in similar pressure campaigns in other swing states as well.
What’s so incredibly damning about the Jacob-Eastman email exchange is that the former is utterly convinced that the latter knows that what he is doing is wrong – and is doing it anyway, with disastrous consequences for the party.
The image of Eastman as Iago pouring his poison in the ear of Trump’s Othello is a powerful one. Especially when you consider that Jacob wasn’t some lawyer working for Democrats. He was the chief counsel to the Republican vice president of the United States.
That fact makes his accusations against Eastman all the more powerful.