A new CNN report on Monday revealed a memo from a lawyer working with former President Donald Trump that detailed a plan to overturn his loss to Joe Biden on Jan. 6. The report reveals findings from the new book, "Peril," by reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
It included a copy of the memo from conservative law professor John Eastman, showing a six-point plan to leverage then-Vice President Mike Pence's role as the president of the Senate to control Congress's vote counting and throw out the votes of seven states.
This would leave Trump in the lead with 232 Electoral College votes over Biden's 228. Then, according to Eastman, Democrats would let out "howls." (The whole memo shows open contempt for Democrats.) But if they object, he argued, Pence could declare the election inconclusive, at which point it would move into the House. And because Republicans control a majority of the House delegations, they could select Trump to carry out a second term.
"The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking for permission – either from a vote of the joint session [of Congress] or from the Court," the memo said. "The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter. We should take all of our actions with that in mind."
Pence, of course, ultimately disagreed with these arguments and refused Trump's pleas to carry out the plan. And despite the insurrection carried out by Trump's followers on the Capitol that day, Pence fulfilled his role as expected, and Congress counted all the Electoral Votes as they were actually awarded, affirming Biden as the winner.
But even though the plan failed, the document remains a disturbing record of the time. It's impossible to know what would have happened if Pence had tried to go along with the plan — there might've been outrage and chaos in the streets, just as there were outbursts of celebration when Biden was declared the winner in November 2020. But if the vice president could just throw out the votes of states he didn't like, it would indisputably be the end of democracy in the United States.
Many legal experts found the document chilling, deeply disturbing, and absurd.
"This 'plan' is laughable, but we shouldn't laugh," said conservative lawyer David French. "If carried out, it would have led to the country's greatest political crisis since April 1861. And Eastman was no mere internet crank. He was a law professor and close to POTUS in the final days."
Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, agreed: "This memo is horrifying. As is the fact that it was written by a (former) law professor. As is the reporting that Pence agonized over the matter. As is so much else about how close we came to a coup (fine — an autogolpe) on 1/6. As is how little we're doing to respond to it."
Asha Rangappa, who teaches at Yale Law School, called the memo a "sinister plan" that would let "Trump to unconstitutionally grab and hold on to power." She added: "Note, by the way, that he's pretty confident the R's would go along with it until then end."
However, the CNN report notes that GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, was a staunch opponent of the plan when it was presented to him.
"It was a dress rehearsal," said Rick Hasen, a prominent expert in election law. "Here's how to do the coup next time, with more loyalists in key places." Hasen argued that there are various ways lawmakers could strengthen our elections against such attempts at subversion, including reform of the Electoral Count Act.
White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki has an odd problem on her hands: a longtime White House correspondent from an obscure Christian website — that publishes little or no actual reporting — is raising a fuss over no longer being allowed to enter her personal office whenever he wishes. This previously unreported West Wing drama has led the reporter in question to call for an investigation.
Matthew Anthony Harper, a former chaplain who is the self-appointed White House correspondent for a little-known media outlet called InterMountain Christian News, says his access to administration sources is being restricted. Harper says this started last week, and now claims he is the target of a "harassment" and "intimidation" campaign crafted by White House press assistants.
"A Secret Service person was giving me a hard time, saying I couldn't be there," he told Salon in an interview, referring to Psaki's office. He said the agent told him "that I didn't have clearance," adding that he was "confused about why I'm being banned from this." That incident, Harper said, occurred last Wednesday, Sept. 15.
After that incident, Harper said he now has to travel around the White House press area with an "escort," which he claims no other reporter is compelled to do. Harper does not have a "hard" (i.e., permanent) press pass, and says the White House took this measure as part of a systematic "harassment and intimidation" campaign by the Biden administration over his specific questions about "human rights." He added, "I know they're singling me out."
Harper believes there is only one way to get to the bottom of this convoluted tale: through a broad investigation into alleged White House wrongdoing. He sent what he calls a formal "complaint" by email to Psaki and press office chief of staff Amanda Finney last Thursday, calling for them to investigate their own operation.
"I've had unrestricted access without an escort to the Press Secretary's office for almost 5 years but now after my continuing and challenging Human Rights violation questions, they are giving me this problem," Harper wrote in an email with the subject line "Christian media complaint." He reiterated his claim that a Secret Service officer had given him a "hard time" and barred him from Psaki's office unless he was escorted.
"It's sometimes difficult to get appointments with any press secretary," said longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem, now a columnist for Salon. "You have to do your job and keep working till you get what you need. I cannot fathom that anyone in that press office would just categorically dismiss any reporter." As for the complaint filed by Harper, Karem said it struck him as "inappropriate."
Other established White House reporters who spoke with Salon, as well as other sources familiar with the matter, said that Harper was only recently prevented from "floating" around Psaki's office in the "upper press" area of the White House. That is not customary for reporters without a hard press pass, which Harper does not possess.
Reporters who have attended countless White House press briefings told Salon that Harper has occasionally appeared at Q&A sessions in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. One, however, said they had legitimately never heard of him, while several others said they had never read any of his reporting. Harper also describes himself as White House correspondent for an Israeli news service called Newsrael, which appears to be a small-scale news aggregation blog, with very few articles under his byline.
Harper has been a West Wing mainstay for years, although there is not much evidence that he is a legitimate news reporter of any description. His most memorable moment in the White House may have come in July 2012, when he asked Jay Carney, then-President Obama's press secretary, a somewhat bewildering "spiritual question."
Harper told Salon, "I was very popular with the media that day. That was an electrifying experience."
Other members of the White House press corps said Harper was known for asking oddly specific and seemingly irrelevant questions about Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's former prime minister.
Harper explains his mission at the White House on his LinkedIn page: "In November 2001, I felt God calling me to establish a Christian News Source for our Treasure Valley Idaho/Oregon area beginning with our online 'Christian Resources and Events Directory' which later developed into the Treasure Valley Christian Newspaper and recently into the InterMountain Christian Newspaper covering the states of Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and now Colorado."
Harper describes himself as co-founder, publisher and president of the InterMountain Christian News group. Salon's research could not find evidence of actual reporting or other journalism created by Harper and InterMountain, beyond a large number of amateurish YouTube videos watched by only a handful of people.
Harper apparently first appeared in the White House's briefing room in the summer of 2011. In 2019, during Donald Trump's presidency, he created a minor media moment for his singing in the briefing room.
Last month, Harper got in a question to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
In a video Harper posted last week from the White House, he discussed "the plight of the Uighurs in the Chinese internment camps and those in southern Mongolia and Tibet and also Taiwan that are greatly impacted by the aggression of the Chinese Communist Party," which appears to be the issue he believes has led to his supposed persecution. The video then cuts to Harper inside the briefing room, saying, "I am Dr. Anthony Harper here in the James Brady press room in the White House — so many crucial issues to talk about."
Asked whether he merits a White House press pass given his apparently minuscule audience, Harper responded that he's not at the White House to "win a popularity contest." He admitted his audience "might not be as large as CNN," but said it is "important," and that national news outlets are "promoting" and "playing" his questions lobbed at Biden officials. "One of my questions went viral in Jerusalem," he said.
"There are a lot of Jewish and Christian people in America," Harper continued. "They are really speaking against the Muslim Uighurs issue," Harper added that he has repeatedly asked the White House for comment and has not received a satisfactory answer. "Rare earth elements!" he added, just before the end of the conversation.
On Monday night, Salon learned that Harper has asked fellow members of the White House press corps to "pray" about his West Wing access problems. He said he plans to apply for a hard White House press pass in October, and hopes not to have "any problems with that."
A senior White House official originally told Salon they would comment on Harper's claims, but no response was received before this article was published.
Speaking to CNN's Don Lemon on Monday, former FBI profiler Jim Clemente explained that the 911 call about Petito and her fiance, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie and bodycam video is textbook domestic violence.
Lemon played the 911 call from a concerned man, saying that he witnessed the couple having a fight where Laundrie allegedly hit Petito several times. The caller described her white van and told police where the car was going. Police then pulled them over where Petito was sobbing.
"I think it's very complicated and nuanced," prefaced Clemente. "But right from the start you could see the difference in their emotional behavior. He was calm. He was a little nervous about what the cops were going to do. Once he got out of the car and he realized he wasn't going to get arrested right away, he was very calm. He was actually very social. He was charming. Whereas, she was in complete distress the entire time. Something much greater than what's described by him."
He went on to describe Petito's behavior as being under Laundrie's control.
"He minimizes his role. He blames everything on her. On the other hand, she takes the blame. She says, 'I get OCD and it frustrates him and I had to apologize to him for my behavior.' That sounds like coercive control," said Clemente. "That sounds like a situation where there's been ongoing domestic violence, and she has basically taken over his controls, the things he wants her to do. If she violates them, she apologizes to him."
He went on to say that the 911 call contradicts what the couple says happened, which is also part of a pattern of abuse. One "that apparently has led to her death," said Clemente.
Laundrie is still missing somewhere in Florida. While Petito is a tragic one, she certainly isn't the only woman facing abuse and who has disappeared over the past several months and even years. According to an ongoing, and growing list by Native Women's Wilderness, "as of 2016, the National Crime Information Center has reported 5,712 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls. Strikingly, the U.S Department of Justice missing persons database has only reported 116 cases."
If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence, they can call 800-799-SAFE (7233) or use the hotline's chat or text function.
The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to the conviction of the missing Native women.
See the full interview with Clemente below:
The disappearance of Gabby Petito in Wyoming has caused a national outcry. However, missing and murdered Indigeno… https://t.co/1AEIbSCtVW— Insider News (@Insider News) 1632173070.0
I'm shaking reading about the discovery of Gabby Petito's body in Wyoming. While we're watching this case unfold, p… https://t.co/oLHWZa6rbw— Shayla Davis (@Shayla Davis) 1632107719.0
Former FBI profiler says it's clear Gabby Petito was in an abusive relationship www.youtube.com
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