By Asha Rangappa
This is the wisdom that the former dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, used to bestow on the newly-arrived law students on their first day of school. Taken from a Korean proverb, the words are especially apropos for the legal profession, given that lawyers have the knowledge and skills to create legal justifications for nefarious -- and even illegal -- ends. That’s exactly what John Eastman, one of Trump’s lawyers, was doing when he drafted his six-point memo with a so-called legal blueprint for throwing out the 2020 election results. Eastman’s willingness to concoct this scheme under the guise of the law reveals not only how close we came to a coup, but how jealously we must scrutinize the guardians of our democracy -- lawyers -- moving forward.
The basic thrust of Eastman’s plot was that the vice president had the power to spontaneously depart from the Electoral Count Act during the certification of the Electoral College votes. His scenario envisioned Pence refusing to certify the votes from seven states, and, having invalidated those votes, declaring Trump the winner. If necessary, Pence would send the “dispute” to be resolved by both houses of Congress, where the Republican majority in each would gleefully go along with the plan and vote Trump as the winner. It’s worth noting here that Pence ultimately did not go along with this plan (Trump tried to get him on board), in part because former Vice President Dan Quayle told him that rejecting the Electoral College votes was not an option. To recap: Our democracy was saved by a guy who is best known in American history for incorrectly correcting the spelling of the word “potato” during a sixth-grade spelling bee.