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Trump and Eastman sought to overturn the results of a democratic election – it was a coup in search of a legal theory.

The third hearing of the bipartisan House January 6 Committee to investigate the assault on the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 continues to be a shocking reminder of just how close this nation came to losing its democratic framework; and perhaps how close it remains to the edge.

Trump Mob trying to get into the Capitol House Chambers, Jan. 6, 2021. Image courtesy of MSNBC

A coup is a sudden, violent, and unlawful seizure of power from a government. Last week the committee’s investigation was able to show that Trump himself not only revved up the crowd of militia members and supporters who attacked the United States Capitol, but he employed threatening measures attempting to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to accept the states’ electoral vote counts, potentially endangering his vice president’s life. He actively participated in the effort to create “alternate slates” of electors as well as pressuring states such as Georgia and Michigan to “find votes.”

The nation’s voters are tuning in to the committee’s work and they appear to be paying attention. At this point, polls show that nearly 60 percent of the American population now believe that Trump should be criminally charged; most often mentioned is “seditious conspiracy” for his part in what is being revealed as an actual plan, but legal experts have begun to say that there could be other crimes including fraud and obstructing a federal government proceeding.

The FBI says that members of the Proud Boys, who were part of the coup’s active planning, have told them that if they had had the chance, they would have killed Mike Pence. Given that the crowd was calling to “Hang Mike Pence” and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, it should be pointed out that had this coup succeeded in killing them, Trump would have wiped out the two people second and third in line to the United States presidency.

It is revealing that all of the committee’s witnesses testifying in such a damming way about Trump’s plans are respected conservatives, and life-long Republicans.

Conservative Federal Judge Michael Luttig, considered an expert on constitutional law who advised Vice President Pence prior to Jan. 6, testified at the Jan. 6 Investigative hearing. Courtesy photo.

Speaking slowly and deliberately, retired Federal Judge Michael Luttig said  “I believe if VP Pence had obeyed the order from his president and had expressed this during the joint session on Jan. 6, 2021, and declared Donald Trump the next president of the United States, notwithstanding that then President Trump had lost the electoral college vote as well as the popular vote in the 2020 Presidential election, that declaration of Trump as the next president would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis in America.”

Luttig paused and added in a solemn voice,  “Which in my view — and I am only one man — would have been the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the Republic.”

The draft memo obtained by the Jan. 6 Committee revealed a strategy that knowingly violated the law and clearly advanced a plan to obstruct the joint session of congress’s task of accepting the state’s electoral votes.

“Eastman built on this saying that those who believe that the VP could decide the results of the election were actively overcoming the will of the people,” said Committee Co-chair Liz Chaney. “He wrote seven states to transmit dual slates of electors,” apparently so that Pence could reference that as a reason to reject the official count and accept these (non-certified) electors.

But Luttig, who has impeccable conservative credentials and has been on the shortlist for the U.S. Supreme Court, disagreed.

“The fake electors had no legal weight. There is no support whatsoever in the Constitution of the U.S. or the laws of the U.S. for the vice president frankly ever, to count alternative electoral slates from the states that had not been officially certified by the designated state official in the electoral count act of 1887.”

Luttig went on to say there is both ‘legal authority’ and ‘historical precedent’. “I do know what [Eastman] was referring to when he said there was historical precedent for doing so. He was incorrect. There was no historical precedent from the beginning of the founding in 1789 that even as near historical precedent (distinguished from legal precedent ) that would support the possibility of the vice president of the U.S. counting alternative electoral slates that had not been officially certified.”

A noose is seen on makeshift gallows outside the Capitol building. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

Former Counsel to Pence Greg Jacobs testified that “I am in complete agreement with Judge Luttig,” and went on to interject a bit of [gallows] humor: “The VP said ‘I can’t wait to go to heaven and meet the framers and ask them and thank them for creating this divine document, but there is one sentence I’d like to talk with you about’ … there is no way that the framers who broke away from King George III would have put in the hands of one person the authority to determine who was going to be the president of the United States.”

“There is no idea more un-American than that there is one person, the VP, who has the authority to decide who the president would be,” said Luttig, who acted as Constitutional adviser to Pence as Trump mounted the pressure campaign to get him to reject the election results. “He said you know the Vice President doesn’t have any authority to do that. He said this a couple times.”

Luttig paused and took a deep breath and slowly added “I would have laid my body across the road before I would let the vice president ignore the electoral vote count and simply declare the loser the winner.”

Jacobs testified that “When the VP said he couldn’t do it in a meeting at the White House on Jan. 5, the president said “No, no, no Mike you can do this. I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this. But wouldn’t it be cool to have that kind of power?”

As members of the Jan. 6 Committee pointed out and witnesses confirmed, What the former president knew:

  • That he had lost the election
  • There was no fraud
  • The coup he was attempting was not legal
  • That the VP would not go along with his plan
  • That the violence would be directed at Pence (he confirmed he didn’t care, and he actually sent text messages egging on the crowd who responded by surging)

The committee further shows that Trump mastermind John Eastman knew:

  • What he proposed was not legal
  • Not only was it not a legally viable scheme and after being told that this action might lead to violence in the streets, he was presumably OK with violence
  • He went ahead anyway and said the VP could reject the electoral votes and what we saw occur on the streets of Washington, D.C. were Trump’s mob saying that VP Pence let them down, and they were prepared to drag him out and hang him.

While there were other witnesses, all Republican, all conservative, Luttig’s comments based on his decades of legal experience are chilling.

“I have written that today almost two years after that fateful day, that Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” said Luttig, speaking slowly with emphasis on each word. “That’s not because of what happened on Jan. 6, it’s because to this very day the former president, his allies, and supporters pledge to go after the presidential election of 2024. If the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election, I believe that they would attempt to overturn the 2024 election in the same way they attempted to overturn the 2020 election but with success in 2024 where they failed in 2020.”

Luttig paused, then said “I don’t speak those words lightly. I would have never spoken those words ever in my life except that that is what the former president and his allies are telling us… as I said in a New York Times op-ed speaking about the electoral count act of 1887, the former president and his allies are executing that blueprint for 2024 in open and plain view of the American public. I repeat – I would have never uttered one single one of those words unless the former president and his allies were candidly and proudly speaking those exact words to America.”

Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes commented: “The government split. Trump was running a play set up by John Eastman, and he went out and incited the mob, while Eastman continued to try to carry out the inside game, even though the vice president was in danger.” (The mob got within 40 feet of the vice president as the Secret Service worked to move him to a secure location.) “The people on board with this plot are still working the plot.”

The January 6 Committee hearings continue beginning at 11:00 a.m. MST Tuesday, June 21. They continue to ask Americans who may know something or have heard or seen something to report it. If you have information, send it to