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Nicolais: John Eastman is a traitor who tried to kill our democracy

Eastman’s plan to sweep away the votes of millions of Americans would have — and still could — kill American democracy

John Eastman is a traitor.

Eastman plotted to undermine our democracy and overthrow the government. He developed a specious plot to cast aside millions of votes, persuaded an autocratic president to act on it and helped instigate a violent insurrection into the physical heart of our democratic republic.

The complexity of the plan and how it unfolded create subtle differences in interpretation and explanation of his actions, but in simple terms, Eastman is a traitor.

Mario Nicolais

There is no right more central to a democracy than the right to vote. Even free speech and education are more tangential rights, albeit both are critical to creating a flourishing system of government. Without the right to vote — and to have the government abide by that vote — there is no democracy.

That is exactly what Eastman tried to strip away a year and half ago. He pressured then Vice President Mike Pence to override millions of voters in battleground states like Georgia and Arizona, and indirectly the tens of millions across the country who cast a ballot for President Joe Biden.

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Eastman ignored dissent from other advisers to former President Donald Trump and persuaded the president to embrace an unfounded, unproven, anti-democratic plan that would transform America into an autocracy. 

Mass violence was just the last-gasp tool he seized to enact his coup.

I have followed revelations about Eastman’s actions closely since the Jan. 6 insurrection. The testimony and presentation during the third day of the Jan. 6 hearings did not present many new facts.

I knew he had been a central figure post-election, feverishly working with other attorneys to overcome the stated will of the people. I knew he had been on the dais instigating an agitated mob in his wide-brimmed hat, fuzzy camel overcoat and paisley scarf.

I even read the entire 221-page brief submitted by congressional counsel that including Eastman’s deposition. As I noted in a column several months ago, Eastman invoked the Fifth Amendment 146 times (Rep. Pete Aguilar, a Democrat from California on the committee, only credited Eastman with 100), even when asked about recorded statements he made to the media, before tens of thousands of rally attendees and in Supreme Court pleadings.

The same congressional hearing included testimony presented by others on Thursday, including a deposition from Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob. Jacob had argued with Eastman, elicited an admission that the plan would fail before the U.S. Supreme Court, and later admonished Eastman that “thanks to your bullshit, we’re now under siege” as a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

I even knew that Eastman had used his University of Colorado email address to help undermine America. Eastman served as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the school. It is an association that CU is obviously now ashamed and recognizes only with the briefest, single-sentence notice.

Given that overthrowing the government is antithetical to actual conservative ideology, maybe Eastman should have been touted as a Visiting Scholar in Sedition and Insurrection.

The only new revelation I heard on Thursday was that Eastman sought a pre-emptive pardon from Trump for his role in a criminal conspiracy.

Eastman knew he had committed serious crimes against the country.

But for Pence’s refusal to follow Eastman’s scheme — in large part thanks to the advice of former appellate Judge J. Michael Luttig, a one-time Eastman mentor and now adversary — our democratic principles 250 years in the making may have washed away.

Eastman is a traitor to our country and should be treated as such. He should be tried and punished. A long prison sentence would be appropriate.

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Unfortunately, as Luttig warned, while Eastman failed in his immediate goal, the country remains under threat from his actions. The false allegations of large-scale voter fraud have caused a rift that will threaten elections this year and in the future. If Republicans win control of the U.S. House of Representatives this year, many may follow an altered version of Eastman’s playbook to force a constitutional crisis in 2024.

Eastman is a traitor who tried to kill our American democracy. If we do not protect it, he may yet succeed.


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


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