Happy Friday my beautiful babies. Cue my intro music, because we are about to get into this before we get into the weekend. T.G.I.F. baby:
I wanted to get into a little housekeeping and also organize this Jackal for everyone. It’ll mostly be about:
John Eastman’s very real attempts to organize a coup in 2020.
Elon Musk getting cold feet.
Should-reads/me telling you to listen to Kendrick Lamar’s new album.
In addition, I will have a guest writer next week, and then the Jackal is taking a break for Memorial Day weekend. So, I’ll see you all again on June 3rd.
A quick theory on how the coup played out.
Yesterday, we got some news about an attorney in Trump’s orbit, John Eastman, who was part of his team’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election:
Even by the standards of other ideas promoted by the conservative lawyer John Eastman to keep President Donald J. Trump in the White House after his election loss in 2020, a newly revealed strategy he proposed to take votes from Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Pennsylvania stands out as especially brazen.
Mr. Eastman pressed a Pennsylvania state lawmaker in December 2020 to carry out a plan to strip Mr. Biden of his win in that state by applying a mathematical equation to accepting the validity of mail ballots, which were most heavily used by Democrats during the pandemic, according to emails from Mr. Eastman released under a public records request by the University of Colorado Boulder, which employed him at the time.
If Eastman sounds familiar, it’s because a few months ago a Federal judge heard a case related to his (other) emails, and said this:
“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” wrote Judge David O. Carter of the Central District of California. “Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the vice president to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election.”
It was a wild decision, because it resulted in the judge affirmatively saying that it was “more likely than not” that Trump “corruptly attempted to obstruct” the transition of power on January 6th (I wrote about this briefly in this Jackal).
The new evidence from Eastman’s emails provide more details on how Trump planned to stay in power. The details of the plan have been sort of floating around in the ether for a while, but it basically went like this:
Get GOP legislatures in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Arizona, to declare mail-in ballots invalid.
Because of these “invalid” votes, the normal electors from the Electoral College couldn’t be counted, so an “alternative” slate would have to be considered.
When it came time on January 6th to count the electoral votes, the plan was to have Vice President Mike Pence - who was presiding over the ceremony - reject the votes from basically all the swing states, and either “seat” the new electors, or find that neither candidate reached 270 electoral votes, and kick the election to the House.
Because in this scenario the House would vote by State conference, and not a simple majority, Republicans would vote for Trump to remain in office.
This sounds nuts, but Eastman’s emails show that it really was a plan. And while you can say it was completely insane and unlikely to happen, the most alarming thing about Eastman’s emails is that he was chatting about this theory with an actual State representative from Pennsylvania, Russ Diamond. And what Diamond says is actually more concerning than Eastman’s nutty theory. In the email exchange, Diamond concedes that Trump’s legal team has done a poor job of proving that there was fraud in Pennsylvania, but still wants to try and overturn the election anyway. Eastman himself says that the allegations of fraud just need to “provide some cover” for the legislature, so that they can send an alternative slate of electors.
Trump was obviously privy to this plan, not only because his team was in contact with Eastman, but because Trump repeatedly turned his focus towards a crucial element: Mike Pence complying and rejecting the electors. Trump confronted Pence prior to January 6th and pressured him into participating, and when Trumpistas began storming the Capitol, Trump threatened Pence (via tweet) while his supporters were chanting about hanging the Vice President. As judge David Carter put it, Eastman’s plans were really a “coup in search of a legal theory,” and Trump came a lot closer to pulling it off than any of us would like to admit. David Graham also gives us an ominous warning:
Though everything we already knew about the paperwork coup has demonstrated it, Eastman’s email proves yet again that the MAGA goal was never about the sanctity of elections. It was engineering a Trump victory by any means possible. The ploy failed in 2020, but since then, Trump supporters have mounted a concerted push to take over offices that control elections around the country. Many of them will be working from the Eastman premise that election administration is all about ensuring the outcome they’ve already chosen.
So, the major question right now is, why isn’t the Justice Department doing anything about it? After all, the
guy traitor who tried to overturn an election to stay in power is just chilling in Florida, playing golf. There are basically two theories about how accountability for Trump would play out:
He won’t be held accountable because the Justice Department feels icky about prosecuting a former President. This is the, “Merrick Garland sucks,” argument.
The Justice Department - through a broad investigation into January 6th - is slowly building a case that leads to Trump. This is the, “Merrick Garland is following the rule of law, which moves slower than you all would like.”
The major advocate for Point 2 is Marcy Wheeler, who writes about it a lot as she goes through all of the (800+) indictments related to January 6th. She observes - I think more than anyone else - that there has already been a “seditious conspiracy” charge related to January 6th, and the militia groups charged with it have ties to Trump. In fact, this has already been confirmed by a Federal Judge. The following is from Wheeler:1
In his opinion upholding the lawsuits against Trump, Amit Mehta found that it was plausible Trump conspired with the militias and also that he bore aid-and-abet liability for assaults at the Capitol (see this post and this post). He found that:
Trump and the militias jointly pursued an effort to disrupt the vote certification
Trump planned the unpermitted march to the Capitol
Trump encouraged the use of force and threats to thwart the certification from proceeding
Trump knew supporters would respond to his calls to come to DC and march on the Capitol
Trump called for collective action
Trump intended his “fight like hell” comment to be taken literally and rioters did take it literally
Trump ratified the riot
In his opinion finding that one email from John Eastman must be turned over to the January 6 Committee on a crime-fraud exception (see this post), Carter laid out the following proof that Trump obstructed the vote certification:
Trump tried to persuade Pence to disrupt the vote certification
He publicly appealed to Pence to do so
He called on his followers to walk to Congress to pressure Pence and Congress
Carter laid out this evidence that Trump had corrupt intent:
Proof that he had been told the vote fraud claims were false and his own request of Brad Raffensperger showed he knew he had lost
Trump had been told the Eastman’s plan was not legal
Carter laid out this evidence he had entered into a conspiracy:
Trump held lots of meetings to talk about plans to obstruct the vote count
Trump ratified Eastman’s plan in his Ellipse speech
(o455d ← This was the baby playing on my keyboard.)
That is basically the whole of Wheeler’s theory. If I had to believe any theory about Trump being investigated, I would choose this one. However, because my cynicism cannot be restrained, I think the reason for a lack of perceived movement in this case is because any indictment of Trump would motivate Republican voters in the midterms.
This morning, Musk announced that he was putting his Twitter acquisition “on hold” until he does some more investigating. In other words, he took out huge loans, sold a bunch of Tesla stock, and got foreign investors involved before he realized Twitter has some spam accounts. Although Musk said he is still “committed” to getting Twitter, the writing is on the wall. Here is what I said in April:
That said, I think there is still a real likelihood that Musk will back out. For one, he is objectively overpaying for Twitter; the buying price is about 38% more than its actual value. For another, it has been super hard for Twitter to squeeze out a profit. In short, Musk ultimately wants to tie up a huge chunk of his wealth in a company that is both hard to manage and barely profitable, and somehow he is trying to convince us that it is good business. It seems like only a matter of time before he comes to his senses, even if he did sell 4 billion dollars worth of Tesla stock yesterday, presumably to fund the deal.
You also have to wonder if the collapse of Crypto this week played into Musk getting cold feet.
Catherine Rampell debunks a Dem narrative about inflation: It’s not corporate greed.
Tim Alberta has an amazing piece on a bunch of churches in Michigan and how they have become more MAGA than Christian. Fun fact: Elisabeth - who, like Alberta, is from Brighton, Michigan - has family members who attend a lot of the churches in the article. I always wonder how Christians are supposed to handle guys like Greg Locke, who lead big churches as MAGA Pastors™ preaching a false gospel. Alberta is a reporter, so he does the kosher thing and refers to a lot of these guys as “Christians.” I’m not a reporter, so I feel OK doing a little bit of gatekeeping, but the reason a lot of these pastors do not sound like Christians is simply because they aren’t Christians. Think of the Fruits of the Spirit that every Christian is supposed to naturally project: Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Do these guys sound like that? Locke has called Joe Biden a pedophile demon from the pulpit, and said the COVID-19 vaccine was poison. It’s hard to call that, “gentleness,” IMHO. In James’s epistle, he repeatedly makes the case that if you are really a Christian, the “residue” of that choice naturally flows out of you. And if it’s not flowing out of you…you probably ain’t a Christian. There is a dangerous belief in more charismatic circles, that once you respond to an alter call and say the sinner’s prayer, you immediately become a Christian. In reality, that isn’t Biblical. James famously writes that “faith without works is dead,” but the context for that verse is that true faith will naturally produce “works.” It is inarguable, to me, that these MAGA pastors aren’t producing good works.
Charlie Sykes has a great read on Chuck Schumer’s malfeasance.
That’s it for me my babies. I’ll see you on June 3rd.
LISTEN TO KENDRICK:
FOR WHATEVER REASON Substack won’t let me block quote people who use bullet points.