The congressional Jan. 6 committee released some incredible documents Wednesday evening, as part of a court filing in which the committee alleged, among other things, that then-President Trump violated the law when he attempted to overturn the 2020 election results.
The filing had more than a dozen exhibits, which were mostly excerpts of interview transcripts between the committee and several witnesses, including Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Rosen and Vice President Mike Pence’s national security advisor, Keith Kellogg.
The most interesting exhibits in Wednesday’s filing were documentary evidence. Here, for example, is Trump’s private schedule for Jan. 6, complete with handwritten notes that appear to show a partial list of people who spoke or were backstage at the event at The Ellipse that morning. The document also has notes seemingly indicating calls, including “11:17 – c w/ Sen. Kelly Loeffler (~11:20).”
Then, an entry that the committee said indicated a call with Pence:
“11:20 – c w/ VPOTUS ( ).”
The other documentary evidence in the filing consists of emails back and forth between John Eastman, an attorney who advised Trump on strategies for overturning the election results, and Pence chief counsel Greg Jacob, who flatly rejected Eastman’s logic, the emails show. We’ve known about some of this exchange for months: In October, The Washington Post reported that Eastman told Jacob, in the middle of the Capitol attack, that “The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened.”
But that’s hardly all. Over several emails, Eastman cajoles, berates, attacks, and seeks to reconcile with Jacob, who responds in kind. The messages start on Jan. 5, with Eastman declaring a “major new development” to Jacob — a letter from Republican state legislators in Pennsylvania, asking for “more time” and for Congress to “delay certification” of the election.
When Jacob raises constitutional questions about the move on Jan. 6, Eastman calls him “small minded,” and compares the situation to the Gulf War, when then-President George Bush Sr. apparently ignored the requirement for an environmental impact assessment before invading Iraqi oil fields. “Technically true. But nonsense,” Eastman wrote.
After the attack on Congress begins, as previously reported, the pair bicker over who is responsible for the “siege.” Jacob tells Eastman that his advice has functioned “as a serpent in the ear of the President of the United States, the most powerful office in the entire world. And here we are.” And he keeps going:
Respectfully, it was gravely, gravely irresponsible for you to entice the President with an academic theory that had no legal viability, and that you well know would lose before any judge who heard and decided the case. And if the courts declined to hear it, I suppose it could only be decided in the streets. The knowing amplification of that theory through numerous surrogates, whipping large numbers of people into a frenzy over something with no chance of ever attaining legal force through actual process of law, has led us to where we are.
When Eastman argues that Pence only objected publicly to “the most aggressive position” under discussion — the idea that the vice president can just reject election results — Jacob says, accurately, that this is the position Trump himself has advocated. Eastman grants that he has a point and refers to Trump:
“But you know him — once he gets something in his head, it is hard to get him to change course.”
In one more documentary exhibit, Eastman sends another final message to Jacob, advocating for “a relatively minor violation” of election law — justified by various technical violations of the Electoral Count Act that Eastman says happened after the attack, when members of Congress resumed their debate:
So now that the precedent has been set that the Electoral Count Act is not quite so sacrosanct as was previously claimed, I implore you to consider one more relatively minor violation and adjourn for 10 days and allow the legislatures to finish their investigations, as well as to allow a full forensic audit of the massive amount of illegal activity hat has occurred here. If none of that moves the needle, at least a good portion of the 75 million people who supported President Trump will have seen a process that allowed the illegality to be aired.”