Politics

‘Constitutional scholar’ John Eastman will plead the Fifth before Jan. 6 Select Committee

Eastman is frequently referred to on the right as a “constitutional scholar” and that label is, unfortunately, too often adopted by the media. In truth, Eastman formerly held the position of a law professor at the bottom-tier Chapman School of Law, a place that also counted Hugh Hewitt as a member of the faculty. Eastman is also a chairman at the Federalist Society, the chair of the anti-LGBTQ-rights National Organization for Marriage, a board member of the ultraconservative Claremont Institute, and the director of a foundation created entirely for the purposes of undermining elections. As Slate explained, Eastman’s organization “masquerades as an intellectual salon of the right, but it is really just a racist fever swamp.” 

In other words, Eastman is a product of the right-wing think tank industry—someone whose entire life has been devoted to eroding the rights of others to support authoritarian rule by a minority party. His role as a supposed constitutional scholar is simply to twist the Constitution to suit whatever form of suppression or oppression the Republican Party is pushing forward at the moment.

Eastman has appeared before the Supreme Court to argue against the right to abortion, against same sex marriage, and against citizenship for immigrants. He lost every single argument … though that was before the Court took on its current Trump-friendly configuration.

The letter from Eastman’s attorney to the Select Committee could have been written by Eastman himself, as it tries to pull small phrases out of the House rules and use them to argue that the entire committee is itself illegal, so it can’t issue subpoenas, so Eastman can’t be held in contempt. So there. But really, everything below the “not to be a witness against himself” line is pointless.

As Politico points out, “Eastman’s decision is an extraordinary assertion by someone who worked closely with Trump to attempt to overturn the 2020 election results.”

Eastman’s plan for January 6 called for Pence to allege that there was some question about the validity of the delegations sent to the Electoral College by seven states. Then, ignoring the Electoral Count Act, Pence would simply skip over those states in his count, and declare Trump the victor based on the states that were counted. The plan even included a backup, anticipating that Democrats would protest, in which Pence would ask for a roll call of House delegations where each state would get one vote, and where Republicans enjoy a one state majority.

None of this is in any sense constitutional. Nor is Eastman any kind of scholar. The only thing he knows about the Constitution is that the Fifth Amendment is handy when you’re trying to hide from your role in an insurrection.




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