Trump lawyer ‘gave Pence six-step guide on how to overturn election’

Donald Trump’s vice president ultimately refused to obstruct certification of Joe Biden’s victory – and had to be evacuated from the Senate chamber during the attack on the US Capitol

Andrew Naughtie
Thursday 23 September 2021 14:21

‘Violence never wins’: Mike Pence condemns Capitol riot

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A newly released memo from a former member of Donald Trump’s legal team has shed further light on efforts to overturn the 2020 election – spelling out a plan for then-vice president Mike Pence to throw out the result in the Senate “without asking for permission”.

Written by controversial conservative lawyer John Eastman, who appeared at the “Stop the Steal” rally that precipitated the Capitol insurrection on 6 January, the memo was obtained in full by CNN and is described in the new book Peril, an account of the Trump administration’s behaviour after the election. The book has generated multiple sensational headlines before even being published.

According to Mr Eastman’s plan, which was never enacted even in part, Mr Pence would have interrupted the normal procedure of reading out the Electoral College vote by abruptly announcing that Arizona has sent “multiple slates of electors”, and that as a result, he would “defer decision on that until finishing the other states”. The other “disputed” states that Mr Biden in fact won would be similarly pushed aside.

Mr Pence would then have gone on to announce that “because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 states, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those states” – reducing the number of “electors appointed” to 454. At that point, Mr Pence would have gavelled Mr Trump as re-elected with 232 votes.

This plan is legally farcical, and was reportedly not seriously considered even by close Trump allies in the Senate. According to Peril, Utah’s Mike Lee – who later said the then-president deserved a “Mulligan” for his part urging people to storm the Capitol – spurned the argument as worthless, as did South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham.

According to Peril, Mr Trump’s personal efforts to get Mr Pence to interfere with the electoral certification process saw the president pose the question, “Wouldn’t it be almost cool to have that power?”

The authors write that when Mr Pence answered that it would not, Mr Trump lashed out: “No, no, no! You don’t understand, Mike. You can do this. I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this. If you don’t do it, I picked the wrong man four years ago.”

Mr Pence was ultimately one of the top targets of the extremists and Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol on 6 January after Mr Trump told them “you’ll never take back our country with weakness”. Rioters were heard chanting “hang Mike Pence” as the vice president was evacuated from the Senate chamber to an undisclosed place of safety.

When he returned to his position later that day once the attack had ended, the vice president sounded a defiant note against the violence.

“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people’s house. And as we reconvene in this chamber the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy.”

After the riot, Mr Eastman retired from his position at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law as colleagues at the university clamored for him to be fired. In a furious piece written as he departed, he restated various dubious and false claims about the supposed conspiracies to steal the election and insisted that far from trying to obstruct the certification of the result or helping incite the riot, he simply “participated in a peaceful rally of nearly ½ million people, two miles away from the violence that occurred at the capital (sic) and which began even before the speeches were finished”.

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