Trump's Coup Conspirators Run Groups Planning His Second Administration
Two reported co-conspirators in former President Donald Trump’s scheme to remain in office after his loss in 2020 are high-ranking members of organizations working to staff the next Republican administration.
Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump for allegedly attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election lists six unnamed co-conspirators, two of whom have been widely reported to be John Eastman, senior fellow at The Claremont Institute, and Jeffrey Clark, senior fellow and director of litigation at the Center for Renewing America. According to the indictment, Clark suggested deploying the military to suppress political unrest in the event that the coup proved successful. Eastman appears to have been comfortable with that plan as well.
The Claremont Institute and the Center for Renewing America are both coalition members advising on Project 2025, an effort led by right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation to provide the next Republican president with policy papers and vetted personnel on day one of their administration. The Center for Renewing America is run by Russ Vought, a Christian nationalist and right-wing media regular guest with sweeping plans to gut the federal civil service and weaponize federal law enforcement against his group’s enemies under a future Republican administration. Both organizations are closely aligned with Trump and the far-right wing of the Republican Party.
If Trump is reelected, he is expected to either pardon himself or appoint an attorney general who would dismiss federal charges against him, meaning that two of the figures most closely associated with Trump’s failed coup could help determine how he quashes the case if given the chance.
Under Trump, Clark was a mid-level Department of Justice official who embraced the former president’s false allegations of voter fraud more than his colleagues did. Like CRA boss Russ Vought, Clark regularly appears on Steve Bannon's War Room show. After Trump’s loss, Clark proposed sending letters to election officials in key states claiming, without evidence, that the Department of Justice had “identified significant concerns” about the election results and suggesting that they should send “a separate slate of electors supporting Donald J. Trump,” according to congressional testimony.
According to the indictment, on the morning of January 3, 2021, Clark also accepted an offer from Trump for the position of acting attorney general, a fact not previously known to the public. That afternoon, deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin told Clark “there is no world” in which Trump would not leave office on January 20, 2021, and that if Clark pushed forward with the coup attempt “there would be riots in every major city in the United States.”
“Well … that’s why there’s an Insurrection Act,” Clark responded, referring to the vague and outdated law that gives the president the authority to deploy the military against civilians. Trump later rescinded the appointment following threats of mass resignations from the Justice Department.
Eastman is a constitutional lawyer who attempted to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to claim authority to invalidate the certification of the election on January 6, 2021. That role is purely ceremonial, and Eastman faced a disbarment hearing in California this summer related to his bogus legal claims. Axios has reported that, between January 4 and January 7, 2021, Eastman sent 101 emails offering advice to Trump and others in his circle detailing strategies to prevent Congress from certifying the election results. On August 2, Eastman appeared on The Charlie Kirk Show, where he doubled down on his theory behind the illegal attempt to over turn the 2020 election.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
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