Little new evidence was presented at Donald Trump’s second presidential impeachment trial back in February. But for one fleeting moment, we learned about something that seemed condemnable. It turned out that during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which endangered lawmakers, Trump appeared to revel in the scene and/or try to leverage it.
“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), as relayed by another GOP lawmaker.
The comment is characteristically Trumpian. It was suggestive that maybe McCarthy might heed what the mob was trying to tell him, even if Trump didn’t say so explicitly. And thanks to Trump’s efforts to block disclosures to the Jan. 6 committee and the tight lips of McCarthy and other Republicans who spoke with Trump during the riot, we don’t know much about what Trump was saying or doing that day.
But new revelations from The Washington Post on Friday night reinforce that there was indeed an effort to leverage the mob — quite explicitly.
The big news in the new investigation from The Post’s Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, Jon Swaine and Emma Brown involves Trump lawyer John Eastman, the author of the infamous memos laying out a legal case trying to get Vice President Mike Pence to help overturn the election. It turns out that even as rioters overran the Capitol and a recalcitrant Pence was forced into hiding, Eastman emailed a Pence aide to actually blame Pence for the scene.
After Pence aide Greg Jacob emailed Eastman to tell him that his “bull----” legal advice was why Pence’s team was “under siege,” Eastman responded that it was in fact Pence’s fault.
“The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this [election challenge] to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened,” Eastman replied, as revealed in a previously unpublished op-ed by Jacob.
Blaming a guy who is in hiding in fear of his life is certainly a position to take. We knew Trump posted a tweet attacking Pence early in the riot, even after Pence had just gone into hiding, but it hasn’t been clear that Trump knew he was in hiding or about the level of the danger involved. Here is Trump’s lawyer suggesting that even when they were able to appreciate the danger, Pence was still being leaned on.
But that’s arguably not even the most compelling evidence that Trump and Eastman tried to leverage the mob attack. Check out this section of The Post’s report about what happened after the Capitol had been cleared and Congress had reconvened:
Pence allowed other lawmakers to speak before they returned to counting the votes, and said he wasn’t counting the time from his speech or the other lawmakers against the time allotted in the Electoral Count Act.Eastman said that this prompted him to email Jacob to say that Pence should not certify the election because he had already violated the Electoral College Act, which Pence had cited as a reason that he could not send the electors back to the states.“My point was they had already violated the electoral count act by allowing debate to extend past the allotted two hours, and by not reconvening ‘immediately’ in joint session after the vote in the objection,” Eastman told The Post. “It seemed that had already set the precedent that it was not an impediment.”
This is all a bit dense. But what it basically amounts to is Eastman’s trying to use the fallout of a mob attack — one spurred by his and Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud and Eastman’s highly unorthodox plan to overturn the election — to then get Pence to reject election results based upon a technicality.
Pence had given lawmakers time to talk about the ugly scene that had just transpired, something which many of them were understandably pretty raw about. But, in this, Eastman apparently saw an opportunity.
Basically everything about this entire effort to overturn the election was brazen, but that’s certainly right up there in terms of degree.
Ultimately, the riot turned out to be counterproductive, with even GOP members who had been planning to object to certain states throwing in the towel on the effort. But even as that was happening, and even after Eastman’s plan helped spawn one of the ugliest scenes of political violence in American political history, Eastman was pushing forward — not just doing so despite the insurrection, but also trying to use it to further his plan.
Between that, Trump’s comment to McCarthy, and Trump’s tweet attacking Pence, it’s pretty clear the Trump team saw utility in the mob. And they apparently tried to exploit it to the bitter end.