Trump Attorney Eastman Admitted His Jan. 6 Plot Was Illegal—and Asked for a Pardon

“I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works,” John Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani after Jan. 6.
Cameron Joseph
Washington, US
Trump's lawyer John Eastman speaks at the University of Colorado Boulder on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
Trump's lawyer John Eastman speaks at the University of Colorado Boulder on Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Photo by Andy Cross / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Trump attorney John Eastman was warned that his plot to keep then-President Donald Trump in power by any means necessary would cause “riots in the streets”—and didn’t seem to care.

He admitted on the eve of Jan. 6 that his flimsy election plot was illegal.

And after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he asked for a pardon from Trump.

Those bombshells were unveiled by the House Jan. 6 Select Committee on Thursday, during the committee’s latest hearing looking at the causes of the attempted insurrection.


Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann testified that he warned Eastman his “crazy” plot to have Vice President Mike Pence overturn the 2020 election results would lead to widespread violence.

“I said, ‘You're completely crazy. You’re going to turn around and tell 78-plus million people in this country that this is how you're going to invalidate their votes because you think election was stolen? They're not going to tolerate it. You're going to cause riots in the streets.’”

Eastman’s response?

“He said words to the effect of ‘there's been violence in the history of our country,’” Herschmann said in his previously taped deposition.

Herschmann wasn’t the only one who worried that Eastman’s plan could plunge the nation into violence and chaos.

Retired Circuit Court Judge J. Michael Luttig, whom Eastman once clerked for, strongly advised Pence that his old employee’s plan was both ludicrous and dangerous. 

He testified on Thursday that if Pence went along with Eastman’s plan, it "would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis."

Pence attorney Greg Jacob testified that he warned the vice president that there was a chance if he did go along with Trump and Eastman’s plot, there was a chance the Supreme Court would opt not to weigh in—leading to a standoff between Congress and the White House, no actual constitutional solution, and a great risk that with the government locked in an existential constitutional crisis, one or both sides would turn to violence to try to seize control of the U.S.


“You would have had just an unprecedented constitutional jump-ball situation with that standoff. And as I expressed to him, that issue might well then have to be decided in the streets,” Jacob said he warned Pence. “Because if we can't work it out politically, we've already seen how charged up people are about this election. And so it would be a disastrous situation to be in.”

Eastman didn’t seem too bothered by the actual legality of his claims, either.

Jacob testified that Eastman admitted to him that his theory that Pence could unilaterally reject the certification of the 2020 election was almost certainly illegal during a lengthy argument on Jan. 5, the day before the Capitol riot.

“I said, John, if the vice president did what you were asking him to do, wouldn’t we lose nine to nothing in the Supreme Court?’” Jacob testified. 

“He initially started ‘Well, maybe you would lose seven to two. And after some further discussion he ultimately acknowledged, ‘Well, yeah, you're right, we would lose nine to zero,’” Jacob said Eastman admitted.

Eastman had privately conceded that his plot might not work back in December, but that was by far the clearest he had been about its likely unconstitutionality.

On the day after the riot, Herschmann testified that Eastman called him asking about a legal filing. Herschmann told him the only words he wanted to hear from Eastman were two words: “orderly transition.”


Herschmann then said he told Eastman: “Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You’re going to need it.”

A few days later, Eastman sent an email to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani seeking a pardon.

"I've decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works," he emailed.

That never happened. Eastman took the Fifth Amendment, protecting against self-incrimination, more than 100 times during his testimony to the  Jan. 6 Committee.

The Justice Department has reportedly opened a criminal investigation into the actions of Eastman, Giuliani and others in trying to execute his plan.