A Federalist Society Star Helped Foment the Capitol Riot - 2021-01-13
The Capitol mob didn't come out of nowhere. It was a response to the concerted attack on 2020's election results crafted by elite right-wing politicians, academics, and attorneys. No law professor played a bigger role in Donald Trump's plot to overturn the election than John Eastman. As the president's actual attorneys backed away from his coup, Eastman rushed in to fill the void, attempting to bolster the scheme with incoherent legal theories. When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged the Supreme Court to overturn the election by nullifying millions of votes, it was Eastman who intervened on Trump's behalf to endorse Paxton's suit. When Trump exhorted Vice President Mike Pence to award him a second term by unilaterally disqualifying electoral votes, it was Eastman who advised Pence that he could, indeed, throw the election to Trump. And when Trump needed a putative legal scholar to lend credence to his pre-insurrection rally, he brought out Eastman to deliver a speech alongside Rudy Giuliani, ringleader of the president's efforts to steal the election.
It is no surprise that Eastman, a white supremacist on the far-right fringe of the conservative legal movement, played a major role in the president's failed coup. What is remarkable—and, with each passing day, extraordinarily damning—is the Federalist Society's refusal to address Eastman's role in the insurrection. Eastman is not only a member of the Federalist Society, the network of conservative attorneys that provided the legal scaffolding for Trumpism. He is the chairman of the organization's Federalism and Separation of Powers practice group and a frequent participant in its public events. The Federalist Society's refusal to expel, condemn, or distance itself from Eastman in any way indicates that the organization is untroubled by the subversion of American democracy.
Eastman has spent much of his career promoting blatant lies. He gained notoriety in August when Newsweek published his column questioning the citizenship of Vice President–elect Kamala Harris. Eastman argued that Harris may not be an American citizen—and, thus, may not qualify for vice president—because her parents had not become U.S. citizens when she was born. In reality, the Constitution guarantees beyond debate that the children of immigrants who are born in the United States become American citizens at birth. But Eastman has spent decades denying this fact, instead proposing the objectively false theory that these children do not receive birthright citizenship. His racist theory would require the government to strip citizenship from millions of Americans, most of them nonwhite, and subject them to deportation. (Newsweek later apologized for running his piece.)