Details of a plot by allies of former President Donald J. Trump and Mr. Trump himself to overturn the results of the 2020 election are increasingly coming to light. This week, a federal judge released a ruling in which he described an effort in the days before Jan. 6, 2021, to convince Vice President Mike Pence to reject or delay the certification of electors as likely criminal acts.
“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Judge David O. Carter of the Central District of California observed. “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.”
Paradoxically, the judge’s ruling came in a lawsuit in which John Eastman, a conservative lawyer and close adviser of the president’s, tried to avoid cooperating with a House of Representatives committee investigation into the events of Jan. 6 and other attempts to flip the election results. In sworn testimony from others, Mr. Eastman was described as pressing the vice president in at least two meetings, one of which included Mr. Trump. Mr. Eastman had tried to avoid turning over documents, claiming attorney-client privilege, prompting the House committee to sue to compel his participation.
Judge Carter rejected his claim on the basis that attorney-client privilege did not apply when there was evidence of criminal acts in which the attorney took part. According to testimony, Mr. Eastman said in conversations with others that he knew his plan was illegal but that he dismissed it as a “minor violation of federal law.”
Others knew the scheme violated the United States Constitution. New reporting by The Washington Post shows how Senator Ted Cruz, a Harvard-educated lawyer, had agreed to represent Mr. Trump before the Supreme Court if challenges to the legitimate election reached that far. Working in tandem with Mr. Eastman, with whom he had clerked for a federal judge in the 1990s, he developed a parallel plan to delay the Electoral College results, demanding a 10-day “audit” that could have enabled Republican-controlled state legislatures to reverse the result; 10 other senators followed Mr. Cruz’s leadership. Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican and member of the Jan. 6 committee in the House, said that Mr. Cruz was “somebody who knows what the Constitution calls for, knows what his duties and obligations are, and was willing, frankly, to set that aside.”
The judge for whom Mr. Eastman and Mr. Cruz worked — a former U.S. Appeals Court judge, J. Michael Luttig, a Republican himself — said in a statement to The Post, “Once Ted Cruz promised to object, January 6 was all but foreordained, because Cruz was the most influential figure in the Congress willing to force a vote on Trump’s claim that the election was stolen. . . . He was also the most knowledgeable of the intricacies of both the Electoral Count Act and the Constitution, and the ways to exploit the two.”
But then Mr. Pence did not play ball and, in refusing to accede to the president’s Big Lie, became an inadvertent savior of democracy. The investigation continues.