Jun 16 • 5M

The mysterious John Eastman connection

Spoiler alert: It was Ginni Thomas.

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Robert Reich
Robert Reich exposes where power lies in our system — and how it's used and abused.
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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol held its third public hearing today — focused on Trump's efforts to pressure Vice President Pence to refuse to count lawful electoral votes on January 6: the gonzo plan that lawyer John Eastman came up with.

But where did John Eastman come from? And how did he ever reach Trump in the first place? The committee didn’t touch on this today. (When Eastman appeared before the committee he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 146 times.)

Spoiler alert: The connection seems to be through Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas.

Eastman was a law clerk for Clarence Thomas in the early 1990s. (As a former law clerk to a federal judge myself, I can attest that it’s an intimate working relationship. At the time Eastman clerked for Thomas, he was one of only four such law clerks.)

In the days and weeks after the 2020 election, Ginni Thomas actively sought to overturn the election. She pressed 29 Republican state lawmakers in Arizona to set aside Joe Biden’s popular vote victory and “choose” presidential electors (according to emails obtained by The Washington Post) — urging lawmakers to “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure.” On Dec. 13, the day before members of the electoral college were slated to cast their votes and seal Biden’s victory, she emailed 22 House members and one senator, saying “Before you choose your state’s Electors … consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don’t stand up and lead.” She also sent messages to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, repeatedly pressing him to overturn the outcome of the election, according to text messages obtained by The Post and CBS News. (After Jan. 6, she told Meadows in a text that she was “disgusted” with Pence, who had refused to help block the certification of Biden’s electoral college victory.)

Ginni Thomas also corresponded by email with John Eastman (per The Post). Eastman must have presented his bonkers plan to her, which she related to Meadows (and therefore Trump).

Soon thereafter, Eastman was working closely with Trump. He met the Oval Office with Trump and Pence. In a late-night court filing on May 19, 2022, Eastman disclosed he routinely communicated with Trump directly or via "six conduits" regarding legal strategy leading up to January 6, detailing "two hand-written notes from former President Trump about information that he thought might be useful for the anticipated litigation." (Eastman made the disclosure to claim attorney-client privilege to prevent the January 6 committee from obtaining 600 of his emails. On June 7, Judge David O. Carter ruled that Eastman had to disclose 159 sensitive documents to the committee, ten of which related to December 2020 meetings by a secretive group strategizing about how to overturn the election, which included what Judge Carter characterized as a "high-profile" leader. Carter noted one email in particular contained what he found was likely evidence of a crime and ordered it disclosed under the crime-fraud exception of attorney-client privilege. The email in question contained a comment by an unidentified attorney that litigating a case regarding the January 6 session in Congress might "tank the January 6 strategy" and so the Trump legal team should avoid the courts.)

Did Eastman communicate with Justice Thomas, too? Eastman knew things about the Supreme Court at the time that no one else outside the Court knew. According to the New York Times, Eastman told an ally on Dec. 24, 2020, that there was a “heated fight” among Supreme Court justices about whether to take up election-related lawsuits. Recall that the Supreme Court rejected an 11th-hour effort by Trump allies to have it step in during the legal fight over the election results, during which dozens of lower court cases were almost all decided against Trump. Justice Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with that decision. Then in January 2021, the Supreme Court rejected a request by Trump to block the release of his White House records to the House committee investigating Jan. 6. Clarence Thomas was the only justice to dissent, siding with Trump.

According to committee testimony from Pence’s then-chief counsel Greg Jacob, Eastman told Jacob he was confident Justice Thomas would have backed his strategy to have Pence reject some Biden electors on Jan. 6.

The leaders of the House Jan. 6 committee say they plan to invite Ginni Thomas to speak to the committee (it’s unclear if the committee will first ask for a voluntary appearance or a closed door deposition, or send a subpoena). Ginni Thomas told the right-wing news site The Daily Caller in an interview today that she would "look forward" to speaking with the committee. Thomas has worked with the Daily Caller in the past, including producing an interview with her husband.

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