Jonathan Karl’s new book unveils more on lawyer misconduct, Jan. 6 and the Trump presidency

Concord Monitor Review

Jan. 6 is a story that keeps unspooling. There are layers and layers and we keep finding out more. Jonathan Karl’s new book, Betrayal, is a treasure trove of revealing details.


Our former president was obsessed with staying in power. As Karl shows, his coup attempt went deeper than has been recognized. Much planning, especially by lawyers, went into the coup effort.

We recently learned that not only Trump lawyer John Eastman had a blueprint for a coup but so did Jenna Ellis, a promoter of biblical law and another member of the Trump legal team. Ellis’s memo was very much like Eastman’s.

Ellis saw Vice President Mike Pence as potentially the key Jan. 6 actor. Ellis believes that the vice president has unilateral power as president of the Senate to decline to count electors sent to Congress by the states. She wanted Pence on Jan. 6 to reject electoral votes from Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Her notion was very outside the traditional view that the constitutionally prescribed role of vice presidents is ceremonial during the electoral vote count. Ellis’s memo argued that Pence should halt the Electoral College vote count on Jan. 6 and give until Jan. 15 for states to send a new set of votes. If no new votes arrived by Jan. 15, Ellis argued those states’ votes would not be counted.

At that point, with no candidate having 270 electoral votes, the election would be thrown into the House of Representatives pursuant to the 12th Amendment. Because each state gets one vote and because the Republicans controlled a majority of state delegations, Ellis argued that throwing the election to Congress would result in a Trump victory. She conveniently overlooked the fact that Joe Biden won the six battleground states she cited.

On New Year’s Eve last year, Mark Meadows, Trump’s last Chief of Staff, emailed Ellis’s memo to Vice President Pence. Trump’s plan was to ratchet up the pressure on Pence. Trump also had his baggage handler turned head of presidential personnel, Johnny McEntee, write a historically inaccurate memo to Pence entitled “Jefferson used his position as Vice President to win.” McEntee passed this memo along to Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, on Jan. 1.

At the rally on Jan. 6, Trump told supporters, “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country.”

I also should mention the scheme engineered by lawyer Jeffrey Clark that preceded Jan. 6. Clark was head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division and he was in cahoots with Trump. On Jan. 3, Clark told Jeffrey Rosen, the Acting Attorney General, that Trump was planning on installing him in place of Rosen. Clark wanted the Department of Justice to send a letter to state legislatures suggesting they convene special sessions and appoint new electors due to alleged election improprieties.

Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General, Richard Donoghue nixed Clark’s proposal. Donoghue told Clark that the Justice Department leadership would resign en masse if Trump appointed Clark. According to Donoghue, White House counsel Pat Cipollone referred to Clark’s proposal as a “murder-suicide pact.”

The actions of Eastman, Ellis and Clark are in a different realm than simply offering crackpot advice. They were furthering a criminal scheme to use pseudo-legal theories to overturn the will of the people. Trump was attempting to stay in power despite losing. To try and achieve their goals, Trump’s lawyers consistently pushed the Big Lie of election fraud. Over 60 court decisions later, no court supported any allegation of voter fraud.

Lawyer misconduct usually is about mundane things like stealing client money, routine incompetence, conflict of interest and failing to advise clients in their cases. Lawyers sometimes get fined, suspended from practicing or disbarred.

There seems to be a problem though when the lawyer crimes are bigger. It is almost like we lack the words to describe the crimes because the crimes are supersized. Professional conduct committees that oversee lawyer conduct are unfamiliar with cases where lawyers lie to advance seditious conspiracies designed to obstruct Congressional proceedings like the Electoral College.

I would suggest that lawyers like Eastman, Ellis and Clark are not engaged in offering “legal” advice. Professional lying to advance the fascist overthrow of a constitutional republic is something else.

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