National Security

Who is Michael Luttig, who testifies Thursday before the Jan. 6 panel?

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) makes a closing statement during a Jan. 6 House Select Committee hearing on Monday, June 13, 2022. The hearing focused on false election fraud claims and the Trump campaign’s continued push for donations.
Greg Nash
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) makes a closing statement during a Jan. 6 House Select Committee hearing on Monday, June 13, 2022. The hearing focused on false election fraud claims and the Trump campaign’s continued push for donations.

Former federal judge J. Michael Luttig will testify on Thursday before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol about his role as an informal adviser to then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Thursday’s hearing is expected to focus on Trump and his allies’ efforts to pressure Pence to reject the will of the voters on Jan. 6. Luttig will appear as a witness alongside Greg Jacob, Pence’s chief legal counsel.

Luttig, a former judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who was appointed by former President George H. W. Bush, became prominently connected to Jan. 6 when Pence cited his legal reasoning in a letter that day detailing why he would not reverse the outcome of the election.

“More recently, as the former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig observed, ‘[t]he only responsibility and power of the vice president under the Constitution is to faithfully count the Electoral College votes as they have been cast,’ adding ‘the Constitution does not empower the vice president to alter in any way the votes that have been cast, either by rejecting certain votes or otherwise,’” Pence wrote in the letter.

Before being in Pence’s orbit, Luttig had a long career as a conservative lawyer.

He worked in the Reagan administration in the Office of White House Counsel for about a year. Luttig later clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia when Scalia sat on a federal appeals court, as well as for then-Chief Justice Warren Burger.

In the George H.W. Bush administration, Luttig served as assistant attorney general overseeing the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Bush later nominated him as a federal appeals judge in April 1991, and George W. Bush reportedly considered nominating Luttig to the Supreme Court.

Luttig has also spent time in the private sector, serving as general counsel and senior vice president for Boeing for 13 years before resigning in May 2019.

Less than two years after his resignation, Pence’s inner circle solicited Luttig’s help as the vice president faced increasing pressure from Trump to overturn the election results on Jan. 6.

Luttig told PBS “Frontline” in a two-hour interview about his views on the 2020 election that he first became involved after receiving a call from Richard Cullen, Pence’s personal lawyer and Luttig’s longtime friend, on the evening of Jan. 4.

“Do you know John Eastman?” Cullen asked Luttig, referring to Trump’s campaign lawyer who was pressuring Pence to reject the Electoral College votes.

Eastman was Luttig’s former law clerk.

“Well, Richard, you can tell the vice president that I said that he has no such authority at all,” Luttig said in response, he told PBS.

Luttig told PBS on the morning of Jan. 5 that he continued to speak with Cullen, who asked Luttig to get his “voice out to the country.”

They eventually decided Luttig would write a Twitter thread explaining his views. He published the thread at 9:53 a.m. on Jan. 5, and Pence cited it the next day in his letter.

Luttig also told PBS he spoke with Pence on the phone on Jan. 7, the day after the riot.

Since the insurrection, Luttig has also been a vocal advocate for reforming the Electoral Count Act.

In a February 2022 guest essay in The New York Times, Luttig called the statute “plainly unconstitutional,” arguing reforms are needed to “shore up our faltering democracy.”

“Nothing in the Constitution empowers Congress to decide the validity of the electoral slates submitted by the states,” he wrote. “In fact, the Constitution gives Congress no role whatsoever in choosing the president, save in the circumstance where no presidential candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes cast.”

Tags Electoral Count Act Jan. 6 hearings Michael Luttig Mike Pence Mike Pence
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