Court documents reveal Pence team’s exasperation with Trump
Hundreds of pages of court documents filed by the House Jan. 6 committee offer new details about the extent of the Trump team’s pressure campaign on former Vice President Pence as they unsuccessfully pushed numerous tactics to convince him to buck his ceremonial duty to certify the 2020 election results.
The evidence, filed late Wednesday as part of a court case to compel the release of documents from Trump campaign attorney John Eastman, was compiled as part of a broader effort to show that former President Trump and his attorney engaged in a criminal conspiracy to deny President Biden’s victory.
But it also showcases the exasperation of the Pence team as they pushed back on pleas that only got more desperate leading up to Jan. 6.
“He came in and said, ‘I’m here asking you to reject the electors.’ That’s how he opened at the meeting” on Jan. 5, Pence counsel Greg Jacob said of Eastman, according to his deposition before investigators for the House select committee.
Some of Jacob’s frustration over Eastman’s approach has been previously reported, including a copy of an unpublished op-ed he drafted saying “not a single member of the Supreme Court would support his position.”
But the documents go into greater detail about how Eastman — the drafter of memos for the campaign about how to fight certification of the election results — tried to court Pence as well as the resistance he faced.
Jacob recounts two meetings with Eastman, one on Jan. 4 and another on Jan. 5, where the Trump attorney outlined a number of scenarios, including having Pence declare Trump the winner or reject state electors as a way to kick the matter back to the states.
“He was quite clear in saying, ‘I’ve heard you loud and clear. You’re not going to do that,’” Jacobs said of a plan to have Pence back Trump. “Would you now consider this?
“I was surprised that we instead had a stark ask to just reject electors.”
Jacobs said Eastman seemed to think that would be the preferred route to addressing public blowback.
“He thought that it was more politically palatable. I don’t think that he ever termed that in terms of more palatable to the Vice President … my impression was he was thinking more acceptance of the country of the action taken,” he said.
Jacobs said he pushed back on Eastman’s logic, trying to convince him “that there’s just no way that a small government conservative would ever adopt the position that he was taking” and asking him if he would have backed the concept that former Vice President Al Gore could have certified himself the winner in the disputed 2000 election.
“I said, ‘If this case got to the Supreme Court, we’d lose 9-0, wouldn’t we, if we actually took your position and it got up there?’ And he started out at 7 to 2. And I said, ‘Who are the two?’ And he said, ‘Well, I think maybe Clarence Thomas,’” Jacobs said, before Eastman eventually relented the case would be unlikely to get any votes.
Jacobs said the meeting ended with Eastman saying, “They’re going to be really disappointed that I wasn’t able to persuade you.”
Pence never seriously considered any effort to unwind the election results, Jacobs said.
“From my very first conversation with the Vice President on the subject, his immediate instinct was that there is no way that one person could be entrusted by the Framers to exercise that authority. And never once did I see him budge from that view,” he said.
A deposition from Pence chief of staff Marc Short also states that Pence had pushed back “many times” when Trump suggested the idea.
On Jan. 6, Jacobs was with Pence when he reportedly got a call in which Trump suggested Pence was a “p—-” for not bucking his duty to certify the election results.
“The Vice President’s rule was never to divulge the contents of his conversations with the president,” he said of the call.
Jacobs and Eastman would go on to have a heated email exchange, with Jacobs criticizing him for forwarding legal advice that “functioned as a serpent in the ear of the President of the United States.”
“Respectfully it was gravely, gravely irresponsible for you to entice the President with an academic theory that had no legal viability, and that you well know would lose before any judge who decided the case,” Jacob wrote.
But the two men were able to end the discussion on a hopeful note.
“When this is over, we should have a good bottle of wine over a nice dinner someplace,” Eastman responded later in the chain.
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