Donald Trump had many alleged coconspirators in his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election—looking at you Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell—but none more so than John Eastman, the conservative attorney who authored a six-step plan for Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden’s win. As federal judge David Carter wrote in March, “Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history,” adding: “The illegality of the plan was obvious.” And while neither Trump nor the upper echelons of his inner circle are typically known for their intelligence or powers of perception, they apparently do seem to understand that what Eastman did looks really bad, as does the ex-president’s association with him—particularly as the Justice Department and January 6 committee dig deeper into the events before, during, and after the Capitol attack. Which is why they’ve reportedly devised a plan they believe will keep the heat off Trump re: responsibility for the whole thing: blaming it all on Eastman and pretending Trump had nothing to do with it.
Yes, Rolling Stone reports that Team Trump is hoping to make Eastman its fall guy, despite the fact that Trump worked closely with the right-wing attorney in the hopes of stealing a second term. According to reporters Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, the former president has, in recent weeks, “confided to those close to him that he sees no reason to publicly defend Eastman,” and is also “deeply annoyed” over the negative attention the attorney’s machinations have shined on Trumpworld, which is a hilariously rich take given all the actions Trump took to stay in power independent of Eastman, up to and including claiming election fraud before the election had even happened. Rolling Stone also reports that over the last few months, Trump has deployed his go-to excuse for distancing himself from someone who’s done something particularly bad, i.e. that he barely knows the guy or gal.
In other private conversations, though, the 45th president seems to be all too aware of who Eastman is and what he might go down for, reportedly asking people, “Is [John] going to jail?” Publicly, though, the guy is persona non grata, by design:
“It has been repeatedly communicated to the [former] president that he should not even bring up Johnny Eastman’s name because he is maybe the most radioactive person [involved in this] when it comes to…any so-called criminal exposure,” a person familiar with the matter told Rolling Stone. “Johnny does not have many friends in [the upper crust of] Trumpworld left, and most people loyal to the [former] president are fine with him being left out on his own, to deal with whatever consequences he may or may not face.” Eastman and a Trump spokesperson did not respond to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.
Last week, the January 6 committee posted selections from a deposition of Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann, in which he relayed to the panel a conversation he had with Eastman the day after the insurrection, in which Herschmann told the guy to “get a great effin’ criminal defense lawyer” because “you’re going to need it.” According to the committee, a few days after that, Eastman emailed Giuliani and wrote: “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.” Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland—i.e. the guy who has the power to indict people—told reporters: “I am watching, and I will be watching all the hearings.… And I can assure you that the January 6 prosecutors are watching all of the hearings as well.”