If you're following the January 6 committee hearings and related news, you're seeing the name John Eastman come up a lot -- and if that name sounds familiar, there's good reason.
Before Eastman, a former law professor, tried to throw the 2020 presidential election to Donald Trump, he was a major activist against LGBTQ+ rights. In 2011, he became chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, a group with the primary mission of opposing marriage equality, although it has taken up some other conservative causes too. NOM's website still lists him as chairman and the well-known anti-LGBTQ+ activist Brian Brown as president.
The website hasn't been updated in some time, but NOM remains active on social media, even though the U.S. extended equal marriage rights to same-sex couples through a Supreme Court ruling seven years ago. Recent NOM posts have denounced companies it deems too supportive of LGBTQ+ people, such as Disney, and a pinned post on Twitter accuses Pete and Chasten Buttigieg of "treating women like ovens" because a surrogate gave birth to their children.
At NOM's March for Marriage in 2014, Eastman likened fighting marriage equality to fighting slavery. "The courts should never take away controversial issues away from the voters in this country," he said. "And that's absolutely right. The last time the court tried to do that a century and a half ago on the slavery question, Abraham Lincoln refused to comply. He said if we let the court be the final word, we cease to be our own rulers."
That same year, NOM sought to defend Oregon's same-sex marriage ban in court, since the state's attorney general refused to defend it. Eastman said at the time that NOM was compelled to defend the ban because its Oregon members voted for it in 2004. However, a federal judge ruled in 2014 that NOM did not have the legal standing to do so. The ban was struck down shortly thereafter. Eastman has argued in support of bans in other states as well.
Among Eastman's other greatest hits, compiled by GLAAD and others, he has said marriage should be limited to male-female couples because it's for procreation; voiced support for Uganda's efforts to criminalize homosexuality, potentially imposing the death penalty; questioned Kamala Harris's eligibility to be vice president, even though she was born in the U.S., because her parents were not citizens at the time of her birth; said homosexuality is barbaric and will undermine marriage and all of civil society; and opposed gay-straight alliances and LGBTQ-inclusive lessons in schools.
Eastman was once a law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and was dean of its law school from 2007 to 2010. In 2021, he agreed to resign from Chapman immediately in the wake of his appearance at the pro-Trump rally that led to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. At the rally, he spread the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump: "We know there was fraud. We know that dead people voted." Numerous Chapman faculty members had demanded that Eastman leave the school.
Much of the testimony at Thursday's U.S. House committee hearing on the events of January 6 focused on Eastman's role. As Congress prepared to certify the results of the 2020 election, Eastman put forth the theory that Vice President Mike Pence "had the authority to overturn the election -- a theory he later admitted would fail at the Supreme Court 9-0," CNN notes.
Even though they knew such a move was illegal, "President Trump plotted with a lawyer named John Eastman to pressure Pence to do so anyway," U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the January 6 committee, said at Thursday's hearing. She added that a federal court has determined it was "more likely than not" that Trump and Eastman "dishonestly conspired to obstruct a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021."
When a Pence aide showed him an email from Eastman urging him to suspend the certification session, Pence called it "rubber room stuff," Greg Jacob, a lawyer for the former vice president, said at the hearing. "I understood it to mean that after having seen it play out, what happens when you convince people that there is a decision to be made in the Capitol legitimately about who is to be the president and the consequences of that, he was still pushing us to do what he had been asking us to do for the previous two days, that that was certifiably crazy," Jacob said.
It has also emerged that Eastman sought a presidential pardon before Trump left office, emailing Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani about the matter.
In addition, The Washington Post reported Wednesday on email exchanges between Eastman and right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for whom Eastman was once a law clerk. The emails, according to Post sources, "show that [Ginni] Thomas's efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known." The emails have been obtained by the January 6 committee. "The committee's members and staffers are now discussing whether to spend time during their public hearings exploring Ginni Thomas's role in the attempt to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election," the Post reports. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the committee, told journalists Thursday that the committee will call Ginni Thomas at some point.
Eastman responded to the report Thursday on his Substack account. He shared an image of one email and wrote, "As you can see for yourselves, she invited me to give an update about election litigation to a group she met with periodically. Those from the January 6 committee who leaked a false impression about that email should be ashamed of themselves, but the Post should be embarrassed for running a story based on their false innuendo."