Trump lawyer John Eastman's employer argues he didn't explicitly ask Pence to overturn the election

John Eastman
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The conservative Claremont Institute said Monday that it was breaking from tradition to publicly defend John Eastman, one of its senior fellows, from "a recent combined disinformation, de-platforming, and ostracism campaign" based on legal advice he gave to former President Donald Trump, his client, and former Vice President Mike Pence "at a critical stage during the 2020 elections in December 2020 and January 2021."

What Eastman advised isn't up for debate — you can read the two-page memo and a longer six-page one he wrote about steps Pence could take to not certify President Biden's electoral victory in a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress. But the Claremont Institute asserts that his advice "has since been maliciously misrepresented and distorted" by the media, and that "contrary to almost universally false news accounts, which have done great damage, John did not ask the vice president ... to 'overturn' the election or to decide the validity of electoral votes."

"The defense is among the most carefully worded straw-man arguments in modern political history," Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post. "Essentially, the statement isn't disputing that Eastman provided a ready-made procedure for Trump and Pence to get the election overturned — he clearly and unambiguously did so — it's that he didn't explicitly say Pence should overturn it himself."

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NeverTrump conservative lawyer George Conway was more direct, calling Claremont's statement "a bald-faced, disgraceful lie" and demonstrating that "Pence understood that Trump and Eastman were asking him" to unilaterally "overturn the election." Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, agreed that Claremont "is attempting to whitewash John Eastman's 'how to coup in six easy steps' memo by blatantly misrepresenting what Eastman actually wrote."

"What the Claremont Institute should really be responding to is whether it's comfortable with its employee explicitly seeking to help overturn an American election based upon claims that were routinely debunked and rejected in court," the Post's Blake advised. Eastman's memos were "a lot like if you knew someone wanted to rob a bank and you gave them the blueprints to that particular bank branch. Did you tell them to rob that bank? Of course not. Did you give them the means to accomplish what you knew they wanted to do? Yes. You were an accessory." Read the memos and Claremont's defense of them for yourself.

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