On Monday night, Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed Bob Woodward and Robert Costa about their new book “Peril” (available today).

O’Donnell focused on a passage from the book about Donald Trump’s state of mind on January 5-6, 2021. The reporting of Bob Woodward and Robert Costa clearly establishes Trump’s criminal intent, or mens rea, for the crimes of a seditious conspiracy (a coup d’etat) and inciting insurrection that Trump set in motion when he sent his MAGA/QAnon cult private militia to attack the Capitol.


Transcript (excerpt):

O’DONNELL: [The book] is filled with details about what went through Donald Trump’s mind and what came out of his mouth about his attack on the Constitution. For Donald Trump, after he lost the election, holding onto the presidency was all up to his vice president, Mike Pence. Donald Trump wanted Mike Pence on January 6th to simply not count the electoral votes from some states won by Joe Biden so that Donald Trump would then end up with the largest number of electoral votes and be declared the winner of the presidency or so that the Electoral College could fail to choose a president, which will then leave that decision up to the House of Representatives, and since each state in the House only gets one vote, 26 majority states in the House of representatives would then have given the presidency to Donald Trump.

On January 5th, the night before the Electoral College votes were to be counted in Congress, Donald Trump told Mike Pence that he could and should reject Biden electors.

Page 228, “That is all I want you to do, Mike,” Trump said. “Let the House decide the election. What do you think, Mike?” Trump asked.

Pence returned to his mantra. He did not have the authority to do anything other than count the Electoral Votes. “Well, what if these people say you do?” Trump asked, gesturing beyond the White House to the crowds outside, raucous cheering and blasting bull horns could be heard through the Oval Office windows. “If these people say you have the power, wouldn’t you want to?” Trump asked.

“I wouldn’t want any one person to have that authority,” Pence said. “But wouldn’t it almost be cool to have that power?” Trump asked.

“No,” Pence said. “Look, I’ve read this and I don’t see a way to do it. We’ve exhausted every option. I’ve done everything I could and then some to find a way around this. It’s simply not possible. My interpretation is no.”

“I’ve met with all of these people,” Pence said. They’re all on the same page. I personally believe that these are the limits to what I can do. So if you have a strategy for the 6th, it really shouldn’t involve me because I’m just here to open the envelopes. You should be talking to the House and Senate. Your team should be talking to them about what kind of evidence they’re going to present.”

“No, no, no,” Trump shouted. “You don’t understand, Mike, you can do this. I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this.”

“You’re not going to be sworn in on the 20th. There is not a scenario in which you can be sworn in on the 20th,” Pence said.

“We need to figure out how to deal with it, how we want to handle it, how we want to talk about it.”

Trump’s voice grew louder. “You are weak. You lack courage. You betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing,” Trump said. “Your career is over if you do this.” Pence did not budge.

A Pence adviser, Tom Rose, saw Pence leave the Oval Office, one of Pence’s closest friends, Rose later told others Pence looked chalk white like someone who had received terrible news at a hospital.

Once Pence left, Trump opened a door near the resolute desk. A rush of cold air blasted the room. Trump left the door open. The muffled sound track of excited screams and yells from his supporters filling the room, the noise outside grew louder, almost like a party. “Isn’t that great?” Trump exclaimed. “Tomorrow is going to be a big day.”

[B]ob Woodward, let me begin with you, and that scene just described, that’s in your book, on January 5th — this is the night before what became an attack on the Capitol — and there’s the president of the United States believing and insisting to his vice president that he can change the outcome of the presidential election the next day.

Mike Pence saying, I’ve tried, in effect. I’ve hoped that I could find a way to do that, and I can’t find it. And that’s how close we came to a different Electoral College count in the Congress the next day.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “PERIL”: Yes, more than that. Actually, the legitimacy of the presidency was at stake because if Pence had wavered at all and stood there in the Senate and the House and said, “I can’t decide, I’m going home,” we would have had a constitutional crisis like we’ve never seen before in this country.

But Pence did stick to the law and the Constitution, but it was not a direct path. And the reporting that Bob Costa and I did shows very clearly that Pence was looking — looking for a way to accommodate Trump.

In the end, I think pressure from lawyers and friends and advisers and Pence’s own sense of conservative Republicanism was, OK, I’m going to do the right thing here. But it was not a pure call at the beginning.

* * *

ROBERT COSTA, AUTHOR, “PERIL”: [Former] Vice President Quayle, based on our reporting, kept telling Pence, “You can’t do this, Mike. We’re friends. We’re both Indiana Republican vice presidents. You just can’t move forward.”

And Bob Woodward and I were talking recently about that January 5th scene, too, Lawrence, and the most striking scene to me is after Pence leaves the Oval Office on January 5th. We have in our book, President Trump opening the door on a freezing night, January 5th with the future rioters outside, his supporters outside in the streets of Washington, and in the frigid air having the gust of air come into the Oval Office, and he wouldn’t close the door.

He said to his aides in the Oval Office, “Listen to them, these are my supporters. They want us to act tomorrow on January 6th.” And even some of his own aides were shivering in the Oval Office that night. The president wouldn’t close the door. He wanted to hear the cries of his supporters.

O’DONNELL: Yeah. And it’s a chilling scene for the reader.

CNN reports on the plot for a coup d’etat upon which this passage from the book is based. Woodward and Costa produce receipts. Memo shows Trump lawyer’s six-step plan for Pence to overturn the election:

A conservative lawyer working with then-President Donald Trump’s legal team tried to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence that he could overturn the election results on January 6 when Congress counted the Electoral College votes by throwing out electors from seven states, according to the new book “Peril” from Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

The plot put forward by controversial lawyer John Eastman was outlined in a two-page memo obtained by the authors for “Peril,” and which was subsequently obtained by CNN. The memo, which has not previously been made public, provides new detail showing how Trump and his team tried to persuade Pence to subvert the Constitution and throw out the election results on January 6.

The effort to sway Pence was just one of several behind-the-scenes attempts that Trump’s team undertook ahead of January 6 in a desperate bid to overturn the 2020 election loss, after dozens of lawsuits were thrown out of the courts. “Peril,” which will be released Tuesday, details how Eastman’s memo was sent to GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and how Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to convince fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina of election fraud. But both Lee and Graham scoffed at the arguments and found they had no merit.

“You might as well make your case to Queen Elizabeth II. Congress can’t do this. You’re wasting your time,” Lee said to Trump’s lawyers trying to overturn the results in Georgia, according to the book.

The Eastman memo laid out a six-step plan for Pence to overturn the election for Trump, which included throwing out the results in seven states because they allegedly had competing electors. In fact, no state had actually put forward an alternate slate of electors — there were merely Trump allies claiming without any authority to be electors.

Under Eastman’s scheme, Pence would have declared Trump the winner with more Electoral College votes after the seven states were thrown out, at 232 votes to 222. Anticipating “howls” from Democrats protesting the overturning of the election, the memo proposes, Pence would instead say that no candidate had reached 270 votes in the Electoral College. That would throw the election to the House of Representatives, where each state would get one vote. Since Republicans controlled 26 state delegations, a majority could vote for Trump to win the election.

The plan was first proposed to Pence when Eastman was with Trump in the Oval Office on January 4, during one of Trump’s attempts to convince Pence that he had the authority to stop the certification of the election.

“You really need to listen to John. He’s a respected constitutional scholar [by whom?]. Hear him out,” Trump said to Pence at that meeting, Woodward and Costa write in “Peril.”

In the memo, Eastman went so far as to suggest Pence should take action without warning.

“The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking for permission — either from a vote of the joint session or from the Court,” Eastman wrote. “The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter. We should take all of our actions with that in mind.”

In the end, Pence didn’t go along with Eastman’s scheme, concluding that the Constitution did not give him any power beyond counting the Electoral College votes. He did his own consultations before January 6, according to the book, reaching out to former Vice President Dan Quayle and the Senate parliamentarian, who were both clear in telling him he had no authority beyond counting the votes.

When Pence refused to intervene, Trump turned on his vice president, attacking him on Twitter even as the insurrection at the Capitol was unfolding on January 6.

Trump’s MAGA/QAnon cult private militia stormed the Capitol chanting “hang Mike Pence!”

The memo could be of interest to the House select committee now investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitolon which Adam Kinziger serves – which recently requested documents from the National Archives that specifically included communications involving Eastman.

It shows intent, a sophisticated plan, a blueprint to illegally and unconstitutionally overturn and steal the election” by Trump and his team based on false and misleading information and legal arguments, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN.

‘Lee’s head was spinning’

Eastman spoke at the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. He retired from his position as a professor at Chapman University a week after January 6, which occurred amid protests from faculty at the Southern California university over his participation in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.

Eastman told the Washington Post that his memo merely “explored all options that had been proposed.” CNN has contacted Eastman for comment through the Claremont Institute, where he is a senior fellow.

Laura Field writes, What the Hell Happened to the Claremont Institute?: How the once-distinguished conservative think tank plunged into Trumpism, illiberalism, and lying about the election.

As part of the efforts of Trump’s team to convince Congress not to certify the election, the Eastman memo was given to Lee, one of the Senate’s top Republican constitutional authorities. At the same time, Giuliani sent multiple memos to Graham trying to convince him that the claims of election fraud coming from Trump’s team were legitimate.

The memos show how even some of Trump’s closest allies balked at the measures Trump’s team was taking behind the scenes to try to overturn his loss to Biden. But while Lee and Graham heard out the cases from Trump’s lawyers, they soundly rejected their claims, Woodard and Costa write.

Lee was shocked by the claims the memo was making, since no state had considered, let alone put forward, any alternate slates of electors. “Lee’s head was spinning,” the authors write. “No such procedure existed in the Constitution, any law or past practice. Eastman had apparently drawn it out of thin air.”

Lee also dismissed the Trump team’s arguments that it had a case to overturn the election results in Georgia, saying they had to be made in court.

‘Third grade’

Woodward and Costa also obtained several memos Giuliani sent to Graham to try to convince him of election fraud in Georgia and other states. CNN has also obtained those memos.

The authors write that on January 2, Giuliani briefed Graham at the White House. Giuliani presented a statistical analysis arguing Biden’s win was impossible, but Graham dismissed Giuliani’s evidence as too abstract. “Give me some names. You need to put it in writing. You need to show me the evidence,” Graham said, according to the book.

Giuliani then sent Graham several memos and affidavits claiming fraud. But when Graham’s chief Judiciary Committee counsel Lee Holmes went over the claims, he found they were sloppy, overbearing and “added up to nothing,” Woodward and Costa write. “Holmes reported to Graham that the data in the memos were a concoction, with a bullying tone and eighth grade writing.”

“Third grade,” Graham responded, according to the book. “I can get an affidavit tomorrow saying the world is flat.”

* * *

Trump  [is] continu[ing] to push baseless claims that the election was stolen from him. Last week, he sent a new letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger claiming he should start the process of decertifying the 2020 election.

Criminal investigators in the state have been investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results, including an infamous call Trump made to Raffensperger in which Trump urged the secretary of state to “find” more than 11,000 votes that Trump needed to win.

Graham also made a phone call to Raffensperger, which is part of the Fulton County district attorney’s probe. Graham has said his call was to understand the process of verifying signatures on mail-in ballots.

Uh-huh. Whatever Trump fluffer.

John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani need to be disbarred and prosecuted for a seditious conspiracy, 18 U.S. Code § 2384:

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Co-conspirator Donald Trump must also be prosecuted for a seditious conspiracy and inciting insurrection, 18 U.S. Code § 2383:

Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

147 Republican members of Congress should also be charged with giving aid and comfort to seditious insurrectionists under the above statute, to effectuate John Eastman’s coup d’etat scheme. The 147 Republican lawmakers who still objected to the election results even after the Capitol attack. Those members who are lawyers, i.e., Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz – leaders of the insurrection in Congress – should also be disbarred.