Commentary

John Eastman’s misconduct implicates numerous Coloradans

Those who supported the Jan. 6 villain are also implicated by the Jan. 6 committee’s criminal referral

December 22, 2022 8:59 am

John Eastman is seen on June 4, 2013, as the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage testifying during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

John Eastman’s place as one of the most notorious villains in American history was further established this week when the House Jan. 6 committee recommended that he face criminal charges. 

Based on the executive summary of the committee’s final report, he is second only to former President Donald Trump in bearing responsibility for the illegal scheme to overturn the 2020 election.

Eastman is of particular interest in Colorado, where the attorney was employed as a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado Boulder at the time he was plotting a coup. His activities in Colorado deserve renewed scrutiny, now that his election denial could earn him a criminal conviction in addition to public disgrace.

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It’s long been understood that Eastman was the mastermind of the plan to disrupt the counting of electoral votes by Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 — the day of the insurrection — but the select committee to investigate Jan. 6 thoroughly documented the extent of his misdeeds. Eastman authored the “coup memo,” the six-point blueprint for treason that, among all the legal briefs he ever writes, will exemplify his legacy.

“The evidence shows that Eastman knew in advance of the 2020 election that Vice President Pence could not refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th. In the days before January 6th, Eastman was warned repeatedly that his plan was illegal and ‘completely crazy,’ and would ‘cause riots in the streets,'” the committee wrote in the executive summary.

Eastman’s central role in the coup attempt is already a matter of judicial record. After he tried to block the committee from obtaining documents, including emails, Federal District Court Judge David Carter ruled that it was “more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6th” and that their plot to overturn the election was “a coup in search of a legal theory” that “spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government.”

The committee referred Eastman to the Department of Justice for criminal charges of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States. In a sign that Eastman grasped his criminal culpability after the coup attempt failed, he sought a presidential pardon.

Though the details of Eastman’s treachery are new, the outline was long known ... But that didn’t stop numerous figures in Colorado from embracing him.

Though the details of Eastman’s treachery are new, the outline was long known, not least because during a speech he gave at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally he voiced lies that helped inspire the crowd to become a violent mob. But that didn’t stop numerous figures in Colorado from embracing him.

In February, Eastman was welcomed as a featured guest during a gathering at The Rock Church in Castle Rock. Joining him onstage, as a Newsline report put it at the time, was “a who’s who of leading figures in Colorado’s far-right election denial movement,” including podcaster Joe Oltmann, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, state Rep. Ron Hanks, and El Paso County GOP Chair Vickie Tonkins. Insurrectionist Shawn Smith brought infamy to the event when he suggested to the crowd that Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold should be hanged.

Another forum where Eastman was enthusiastically welcomed was a February meeting of Boulder Republican Women, who got to hear Eastman discuss what the group ridiculously called the “January 6 Capitol incident.”

Eastman has even meddled in Colorado elections. He and Colorado lawyer and far-right radio personality Randy Corporon filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Hanks and others against Griswold that sought to prevent unaffiliated Colorado voters from participating in the June primary election.

And there’s the Colorado-Eastman connection that’s gotten the most attention, his position at CU’s Benson Center. Partly because the center was founded by a white nationalist and two other previous visiting scholars were election deniers, its claim to furthering the university’s pursuit of scholarly excellence was already dubious. Its status as Eastman’s employer when he allegedly committed one of the gravest criminal acts in American history should be treated as a mortal misstep. University leaders will not be able to shed the shame of association with Eastman until they dissolve the center.

At least the university has such recourse. Others, whose affiliation with Eastman was based on shared MAGA banditry, do not. Their partnership with him was always loathsome, but now that his perfidy has been so inescapably recorded by Congress, their own assaults on the Constitution are likewise highlighted and can’t be forgotten.

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