Emails Show Trump’s Lawyer Knew His Jan. 6 Plot Was Bullshit

The Jan. 6 committee says the emails prove that John Eastman’s infamous coup memo was “the culmination of a monthslong effort” to overturn the election.

The attorney who crafted former President Donald Trump’s plot to force a constitutional crisis and stay in office on Jan. 6 admitted that the plan didn’t hold up legally—just weeks before he tried it anyway.

John Eastman, the author of the now-infamous memo that plotted how Vice President Mike Pence and congressional Republicans could try to block President Biden’s election certification on Jan. 6, admitted in a private email weeks earlier that the plot was “dead on arrival” if state legislatures didn’t officially approve the “alternate electors” for Trump. When they refused to do so, he reversed course and encouraged Trump’s team to try to block Congress from certifying Biden’s win even without that shred of legal justification, leading to the chaos at the Capitol on Jan. 6.


The email was made public late Thursday night in a court filing by the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6, and offers further proof that Eastman’s Jan. 6 coup memo wasn’t a one-off but rather, as the committee puts it in its court filing, “the culmination of a monthslong effort to corruptly subvert the results of the 2020 election.”

“Most prominently, new evidence produced by Dr. Eastman illustrates his contemporaneous involvement with the submission of the fraudulent slates of Trump electors that were the basis for his legal arguments regarding the vice president,” the committee’s attorneys wrote in the 57-page memorandum.

At that time, Eastman and Trump were trying to pressure GOP-controlled state legislatures in states Trump had lost to say that he’d actually won those states and certify slates of “dueling” Electoral College elector slates for him. That would have created an actual constitutional crisis, with Congress forced to choose which slate to adopt. Republican state lawmakers, governors and secretaries of state refused to go along with this plot at the time, however, depriving Eastman’s plot of the legal legitimacy it needed to have a chance on Jan. 6.

But after that attempt failed, Eastman reversed himself. Trump backers in the swing states that Biden won had gathered and pretended to be electors on the day the states submitted their electors to the Electoral College. Eastman essentially admits in this email that these people were basically just cosplaying at being electors without any actual official approval from their state legislatures—but days later he emailed Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn that “the fact that we have multiple slates of electors demonstrates the uncertainty of either,” and asserted “that should be enough” to pull things off on Jan. 6.


The emails show how ham-handed and legally dubious this effort was—but how easily a future election could be thrown into chaos if even a few more bad actors go along with a similar plot. If Republican legislators had agreed to chuck out their states’ election results and instead try to install Trump electors, or if the GOP governors of some of those states had refused to sign off on the certifications of those elections, that would have given legal pretext for Congress to try to block Biden’s victory, which would have led to an ugly court fight. If Pence had gone along with the plot, it may have failed legally but it would have created vastly more uncertainty and a much higher risk of an actual constitutional crisis.

Trump and his allies are now trying to use the midterm elections to install as many cronies in those key positions as possible, so that by the time the 2024 election comes around, they’re better-positioned to try again if they lose a close election.

Eastman was caught on hidden camera admitting as much last year, saying he was still working with state legislators to try to overturn the 2020 results, months after Biden’s inauguration.

The committee filed the memorandum as part of an attempt to get Eastman to release 600 emails he claims are attorney-client privilege between himself and the Trump campaign. A judge has forced him to release most of his other emails with the team.


The emails show that Eastman knew not only that his plan to try to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to block President Biden’s election certification wasn’t legal—but that he seems to have beenlying when he said he’d seen proof of widespread voting fraud during a speech to Trump supporters on January 6, shortly before a segment of that crowd rioted and overran the U.S. Capitol.

In that speech, Eastman confidently asserted that “dead people voted” and “machines contributed to that fraud,” claims he admitted weeks earlier that he hadn’t seen evidence of.

But in these emails, Eastman admits that he had “no idea” if the Trump campaign had actually compiled real evidence of widespread fraud in all the states they were contesting.

“I haven’t even had a chance to look at that website link I sent—but was told everything is assembled there,”  he replied when asked for evidence of fraud to supply to GOP members of Congress. “Is that not the case?”

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Donald Trump, mike pence, 2020 election, January 6, big lie, january 6 committee

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