The Jan. 6 committee’s latest hearing assured me that former President Donald Trump, his political allies and supporters will have no problem whatsoever when, following the 2024 election, Vice President Kamala Harris declares Oprah Winfrey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be America’s new president and vice president.
I mean, fair’s fair, right? If the legal theory Trump embraced after (bigly) losing the 2020 election – the theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence had legal authority to overturn the election and name Trump the winner – there’s no way he would turn around and claim that theory is fabricated nonsense. That would be wildly hypocritical, and I’ve never known Trump to be hypocritical.
During Thursday’s hearing of the House select committee investigating the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, members and witnesses laid out facts about the legal theory that undergirded the former president’s belief the election could have been overturned but for Pence’s cowardice.
A legal theory unhinged
My summation of the lengthy testimony and extensive evidence is this: A lawyer dude named John Eastman cooked up a legal theory that read like something scratched together by a bunch of particularly dull-witted chickens with pens tied to their feet.
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Trump and his Faberge-fragile ego bought into it because the theory meant either he would win or have Pence as his fall guy. Pence stood strong for America, then the former president never shut up about it, even after every lawyer whose brain isn’t pudding said the whole theory was garbage and thousands of Trump’s gullible supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to find Pence and impolitely hang him.
To clarify exactly how confident Eastman was in the legal theory he created, Pence’s former legal counsel Greg Jacob testified that he asked Eastman if it might stand up to scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court. Eastman eventually admitted it would lose 9-0.
Also, the committee showed an email from Eastman to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani sent after that Jan. 6: “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.”
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Nothing displays extreme confidence in a controversial legal opinion more than saying, “You know, on second thought, I think would like a pardon, thank you very much!”
In a speech this year, Pence said, “The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person can choose the American president.”
Clearly Trump disagreed.
Coups are cool
According to reporting by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book “Peril” – reporting cited in Thursday’s hearing – when Pence said in an Oval Office meeting that he didn’t have the power to overturn the election, Trump said, “But wouldn’t it almost be cool to have that power?”
Sure! That would be cool as the dickens, I suppose. Especially if you were former Vice President Al Gore in January 2001. Or, as I previously suggested, if you’re Vice President Harris in January 2025 and, assuming Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump Jr. or Marjorie Taylor Greene’s body with Trump’s head attached wins the presidential election, you just up and make Oprah/Ocasio-Cortez the winning pair and hand ’em the keys to the country.
Anyone who accepted – against all evidence – that Trump was right to pressure Pence to toss democracy in a dumpster, would have to happily submit to the 1,000-year-rule of Oprah and AOC. (I’m assuming Oprah has a life-extending serum she and Ocasio-Cortez can take. She’s always ahead of the curve!)
Committee witness and retired Judge Michael Luttig, a respected figure in conservative circles, testified Thursday that the Eastman/Trump effort to overturn the election was, at best, “constitutional mischief.”
Maybe a revolution isn’t so bad?
He also said that the “declaration of Donald 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, which in my view, and I’m only one man, would have been the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the republic.”
OK, fine. But it would, as the former president said, be very cool. And if Pence naming Trump president were cool, then, by the transitive property, Harris naming Oprah president must also be cool. (I’m not sure if that’s exactly how the transitive property works. Eastman borrowed my thinking chickens and I haven’t gotten them back yet.)
Anyhoo, the committee presented evidence and testimony Thursday, from Republicans in and around the Trump administration, that Trump and Eastman both knew the plot was illegal, both pushed forward with it anyway and both pressured the vice president to do some law-breaking in service to Trump being a sore loser.
Even after Pence had repeatedly said he wasn’t going to play along with the kooky coup, Trump, according to testimony from former Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller, dictated a statement saying: “The vice president and I are in total agreement that the vice president has the power to act.”
Very legal, and very cool.
More by Rex Huppke
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Jan. 6 was an attack on our democracy: So was a man’s plan to kill Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh
Or as former legal counsel Jacob testified Thursday: “We were shocked and disappointed because whoever had written and put that statement out, it was categorically untrue.”
Thursday hearing ended with Luttig, whom both Eastman and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz clerked for when he was a judge, saying this: “Today, almost two years after that fateful day in January 2021, that still, Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”
Correct. But don’t worry. President Oprah will solemnly protect our nation. AND EVERYONE WILL GET A NEW CAR!!
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: January 6 hearing shows Pence resisted being ‘cool’ to save America.