Former Trump legal adviser John Eastman sought a presidential pardon in the days after January 6, the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack revealed on Thursday – indicating he knew he acted illegally as he sought to return Donald Trump to the White House.
The disclosure, which came at the end of the panel’s third hearing on Thursday, appears to show a degree of consciousness of guilt from Eastman over his role in attempting to execute the unlawful plan to have then-vice president Mike Pence overturn the 2020 election results.
According to an email that Eastman sent to Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani, and obtained by the select committee, Eastman directly sought a pardon from the former president: “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.”
The revelation about Eastman’s pardon request was the most legally significant moment that came from the hearing, signalling consciousness of guilt that went beyond Eastman’s earlier admissions that his proposals to reverse Trump’s election defeat were all unlawful.
Eastman proposed two strategies ahead of January 6: to have Pence declare a 10-day recess so supposedly “disputed” states – there were none – could re-certify their election results in favour of Trump; or have Pence just reject electoral college votes for Biden.
The select committee showed Eastman knew the proposals were unlawful but pressed ahead anyway, which could form the basis of a case against him that he committed multiple felonies in seeking to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiring to defraud the United States.
First, according to testimony from Jacob, Eastman admitted days before January 6 that having Pence declare a recess would violate the Electoral Count Act, the statute governing the process by which Congress certifies the results of the presidential election.
The former Trump legal adviser nonetheless recommended the option to Trump and Pence in meetings at the White House, according to Jacob, rationalizing it as the more “palatable” route for the vice-president from a political standpoint.
Second, according to emails Eastman sent to Jacob as the Capitol was being breached, Eastman established that he knew that having Pence simply reject slates of electors for Biden was also unlawful, but nevertheless urged Pence to adopt the plan.
“The fact that he was looking into a pardon for himself as a lawyer suggests either consciousness of guilt or fear that he might be guilty,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee.
Eastman does not appear to have ever received a pardon and it was not clear what Giuliani made of the request. But, two sources familiar with the matter said, Giuliani received a pardon request from another person at the Trump war room at the Willard hotel on January 6.
Eastman knew his Pence strategies were unlawful. So did Pence, who took the advice of Jacob and his former chief of staff, Marc Short. But did Trump, and his top advisers? The select committee appeared to make the case on Thursday that they did.
The panel revealed in questioning led by Congressman Pete Aguilar that Giuliani conceded to the former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann on the morning of January 6 that Eastman’s theories were wrong and his critics were “probably right”.
But even though Giuliani appeared to know that Eastman’s strategies were unlawful, Trump’s former personal attorney took to the stage at the Save America rally at the Ellipse hours later and told the Trump supporters there that Eastman’s plan was all legal.
The panel then also raised the prospect that Trump should have known Eastman’s plan was unlawful – once again returning to the doctrine of “wilful blindness” – after being told that by Pence and Jacob, who shared the same opinion as Herschmann.
Like Giuliani, Trump said repeatedly at the Ellipse rally that he hoped Pence would do the “right thing” and declare a recess so that states could recertify the election in his favor, falsely telling the crowd Pence had the power to delay the joint session of Congress.
Their remarks at the Ellipse rally – as well as Trump’s tweets attacking Pence – directly contributed to the fixation on Pence as the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, the select committee argued, raising the spectre of legal exposure for Trump and Giuliani.
According to an FBI informant identified as “W-1”, the crowd took Trump’s attacks on Pence for refusing to adopt Eastman’s plan literally: the far-right Proud Boys group “would have killed Mike Pence if given the chance”, the informant told the justice department.
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )