What do we know of Trump’s efforts to sever the line of elections that goes back to the nation’s founding?
Eastman’s memo lays out a six-step process in which Mike Pence acknowledges the slate of alternative electors handily provided by Georgia Republicans as a pretext for refusing to total that’s state’s votes. Pence would then simply repeat this process across a number of states until he reached the point where Trump had won a majority of the states he would agree to count. At that point, Pence would declare Trump the winner. Should anyone object—a fairly safe bet—Pence would toss the question to the House, where Republicans control a bare margin of delegations, and each state gets only one vote. And should that draw objections, the whole thing would be bundled up for the Trump-packed Supreme Court.
On every legal point, Eastman is simply wrong. In every iteration of this plan, it doesn’t matter. All that had to happen to crumple the nation was for Pence to say the words.
To smooth the path to destruction, Trump worked directly with attorney Jeffrey Clark on a plan to remove acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, replace him with Clark, and then used the full weight of the Department of Justice to support efforts to halt the electoral count and recognize Georgia’s “shadow slate” as its official delegation. Clark intended to put an official Department of Justice stamp on all the claims about voter fraud being made by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.
Again, there was actual no legal or factual basis behind Clark’s claims. It would not have mattered. The point was to throw away the last pretense that the Department of Justice was anything but a part of Trump’s effort to remain in power. Clark was positioning himself as the Martial Herman or Pyotr Krasikov of the Trumpist regime.
The only thing that prevented Clark’s scheme from moving forward—the only thing—was the coincidental release of the recording of Trump’s threats to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Had that recording not appeared exactly when it did, there is little doubt Clark’s scheme would have moved forward.
Bannon spelled out from the beginning how Trump could pitch the nation into turmoil using the official recording of electoral votes on Jan. 6 as a gateway to chaos. Like Eastman, Bannon didn’t even pretend that there was some kind of truth behind the claims of election fraud, or that what they were attempting had a legal basis. Bannon simply explained that the goal was to “cast enough of a shadow over Biden’s victory” that it destroyed any remaining faith in the election system.
“People are going to go, ‘What the f**k is going on here?'” said Bannon. “We’re going to bury Biden on January 6th, f**king bury him.”
All of this, everything Eastman, Clark, and Bannon were doing, was held up by the anger and distrust being generated through a deliberate, well-funded, ongoing effort conducted by Trump’s campaign legal teams under Giuliani. The effort to delegitimize the election system and sow the seeds of violence began before the election, with Trump saying, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged” repeatedly, beginning in August of 2020.
And, just like Bannon, just like Eastman, just like Clark, Giuliani knew that everything he was pushing was a lie. He did not care. Because delivering the truth, or preserving democracy, was never the goal.
The violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 wasn’t the culmination of Trump’s efforts; it was the tip of an insurrection iceberg. The overthrow of American democracy was plotted and planned, in the White House, in conservative think tanks, in Trump’s campaign offices, and in state Republican parties. Not only did it represent the greatest threat to the nation since at least the Civil War, that threat remains intact.
This is the biggest story, bar none, in the history of the nation. A story against which Watergate would barely warrant a footnote and Iran Contra would be lost in the details. So why is that story not on the front page of The New York Times, or The Washington Post? Why isn’t it at the top of CNN or NBC News?
The only real question that remains is not what Donald Trump set out to do, but why the media was such a failure in its job to sound the warning. And why it’s failing again.