How Trump Planned to Overthrow the Election

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Lordy, there was a memo.

Simultaneously audacious and absurd, the document laid out a scheme to have Donald Trump declared the winner of the presidential election on January 6.

And the former president loved it.

Here’s the six-point plan that prominent conservative lawyer John Eastman sketched out for the Trumpian coup:

In today’s Bulwark, Philip Rotner describes the scenario by which Mike Pence and the GOP would overturn the 2020 election. It was, he writes, “an exquisitely Trumpian plan.”

Pence should lie.

Then he should leverage his lie in order to take the election out of the hands of American voters through the exercise of an authority he doesn’t have under the Constitution.

Eastman’s alleged plan is laid out in a two-page memo marked “PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL.” According to CNN and the Washington Post, which published it on Monday, the memo was sent on January 2 to Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who was “shocked” by what he saw.

“Shocked,” but evidently not shocked enough to actually say anything in public.


All of this is beyond parody. But it was no joke.

“This ‘plan’ is laughable, but we shouldn't laugh,” notes David French. “If carried out, it would have led to the country's greatest political crisis since April 1861. And Eastman was no mere internet crank. He was a law professor and close to POTUS in the final days.”

In case this hasn’t sunk in quite yet, the former president was all-in on the attempt to overthrow the election.

The plan was first proposed to Pence when Eastman was with Trump in the Oval Office on January 4, during one of Trump's attempts to convince Pence that he had the authority to stop the certification of the election.

"You really need to listen to John. He's a respected constitutional scholar. Hear him out," Trump said to Pence at that meeting, Woodward and Costa write in "Peril."


Here are several things to keep in mind:

  • First, Eastman’s plan to overturn the presidential election involved throwing out the electoral votes of seven states, effectively disenfranchising tens of millions of voters.

  • Those votes would have been nullified on January 6 — without any evidence at all that that the results were bogus in any way. In Eastman’s scenario, there was no need to wait for more court cases, or “forensic audits.”

  • Pence would either use his (non-existent) power to gavel Trump’s re-election, or a lockstep GOP House would muscle him back into office. A third option was to have state legislatures nullify their state’s popular votes.

  • But it all turned on Mike Pence, who refused to play along. Trump’s rage was transferred to the mob. It was not a random coincidence that protesters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” as they stormed the Capitol.

Some quick takes:

  • It is always risky to delve into the mind of the Orange God King, but it seems increasingly likely that the former president woke up on the morning of January 6 believing that he would, in fact, be reinstated as president.

  • Trump green-lit the coup as he hectored Pence to execute an Eastman-like maneuver, and thought that he and his mob might pressure both the VP and congressional Republicans into going along.

  • The violent attack on the Capitol was both (1) part of Trump’s conspiracy to hold onto power, and (2) a spasm of anger at his failure to get Pence to go along with the scheme.

  • To Trump’s intense disappointment, congressional Republicans did not fully embrace the plot.

  • But…

  • Trump is in the process of creating and reshaping a GOP that just might go along in the future.

BONUS takes:

And ICYMI: Some more on John Eastman from the Bulwark: Christian Vanderbrouk’s harrowing piece, “The Seditionist’s Cookbook: The Trump lawyer behind January 6 has a plan.”

What makes Eastman and Balch so remarkable is that they’re declaring their seditionist agenda openly. While every lawyer with a bar card swears an oath to “defend the U.S. Constitution, in all ways, at all times,” Eastman’s commitment to the Constitution seems, at best, to be highly subjective.

Eastman, Balch and their confederates have made a bet that mainstream conservatives are too intimidated to raise much of a fuss during the planning stages and that if they get the chaos they’re hoping for, their faint-hearted brethren will fall in line behind calls for an “American Caesar” to restore the law and order that they cynically undermined.

And maybe they’re right. Maybe GOP leaders deserve their reputation as decadent, late-republic pushovers.


Texas’s abortion law is not a political winner.

How badly does the law poll? This bad:

In the Monmouth University poll, 70 percent of Americans say they disapprove of “allowing private citizens to use lawsuits to enforce this law rather than having government prosecutors handle these cases.”

Meanwhile, 81 percent say they disapprove of giving $10,000 to “private citizens who successfully file suits against those who perform or assist a woman with getting an abortion.”


Dem bed-wetting update.

The Democrats in disarray narrative has reached fever pitch. Via today’s Politico: “Dems fear Biden's domestic agenda could implode.”

Internal Democratic discord has wounded President Joe Biden’s massive social spending plan, raising the prospect that the package could stall out, shrink dramatically — or even fail altogether.

Myriad problems have arisen. Moderate Senate Democrats Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) continue to be a major headache for party leadership’s $3.5 trillion target. The Senate parliamentarian just nixed the party’s years long push to enact broad immigration reform. House members may tank the prescription drugs overhaul the party has run on for years. And a fight continues to brew over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) push to expand Medicare….

Meanwhile, Biden faces a tough crowd at the UN. Via Politico’s Playbook:

BIDEN’S RISKS: Platitudes about multilateralism and “America’s back” will be quickly shot down. Diplomats from four continents told POLITICO that trust and goodwill around the administration took a heavy hit from the Afghanistan withdrawal, a point hammered home by France’s wounded pride in recent days.

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Some news ——>

Introducing…The Focus Group with Sarah Longwell

Sarah has a new limited series podcast called The Focus Group with Sarah Longwell. You've heard Sarah talk about her focus group work where she hears from Regular Americans. Now with the help of some smart political analysts she gives you a peak through the glass.

Sarah’s first guest is one of our favorite political analysts, Amy Walter, who’s the editor of the Cook Political Report. Amy sits in on Sarah’s focus groups from time to time and agreed to be on the inaugural episode of The Focus Group podcast to put the conversation with swing voters into a broader political context.  

Quick Hits

1. Is Beto O’Rourke Really the Candidate to Beat Greg Abbott?

Tim Miller joins the ranks of the Beto Skeptics:

In 2018, Beto ran a smart campaign that was atmospherically and culturally unifying. He traveled to red corners of the state where Democrats don’t usually go. He went on road trips with Republican colleagues. He appealed to the college-educated red dogs in the suburbs of the big metropolises. On the issues he was more of a conventional liberal, but he was pragmatic in finding ways to maintain a brand based around crossover appeal.

In the intervening years Beto has become much more polarizing, partly due to his own choices and partly due to the nature of the insurrectionist opposition party that is driving out any Republican who might otherwise be inclined to drive around with him.

But the why question about Beto’s brand is less important than the reality of it. In an election where a raging border crisis will be a persistent issue, where the incumbent governor has brought abortion to the forefront, and where Beto’s own decision to flirt with gun confiscation will make 2A questions even more salient than they were in 2018, Beto is necessarily going to find himself at the vanguard of a multi-front culture war.


2. Democrats Should Welcome Those Fleeing Political Violence (in Ohio)

Liam Kerr writes in this morning’s Bulwark:

It’s time for Democrats to welcome principled leaders and encourage them to run as Democrats.

Gonzalez stated in his announcement that most of his political energy will go towards denying Trump power. That’s good news. Because he’ll have a mid-December filing deadline after Ohio’s redistricting is finalized.

Democrats should welcome the Vaccinated Republicans and put our democracy on offense.

It’s time to Draft Gonzo.


3. Did the War on Terror Result in Trumpism?

In the Bulwark: Gabriel Schoenfeld on Spencer Ackerman’s oversimplified account of the last two decades.

But seeing continuity or connection is not the same thing as proving inevitability or even likelihood or causation. Trump and Trumpism are without doubt a reflection of dark underlying social forces in the United States, but that is hardly to say that Trump’s rise and victory in 2016 were preordained. To take just one of the more curious historical hinge points, if Anthony Weiner had not been caught sexting with a minor, Hillary Clinton might well have become president instead of Trump.

To claim that a miscreant like Trump rising to the White House was the likely or inevitable outcome of 9/11 is just an imaginative way of slandering the United States. “Sick of living in America. Sick of mass hysteria” is an epigraph (drawn from punk lyrics) that Ackerman selected for his book. Given his undisguised political leanings, he chose well.


4. Three Myths About Viktor Orbán and His Remaking of Hungary

H. David Baer writes that even commentators who claim to be familiar with Hungary get some big things wrong.

Hungary’s obscurity, often a disadvantage, has worked to the benefit of Viktor Orbán, who has disguised his dismemberment of democracy through a package of laws written in impenetrable Hungarian legalese that only a handful of experts can hope to decipher. Beyond that, he’s spent billions of dollars trying to win friends and influence people by touting Hungary as a Christian conservative Disneyland where the dreams of those who oppose gay marriage really do come true.

Thanks in part to Orbán’s PR efforts, even commentators who claim familiarity with Hungary are wrong about some big things.

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RINOs. Get it? Sick.