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John Eastman declines to elaborate on Trump’s global talks of Chuck Grassley’s presidency on Jan. 6.


Grassley’s role generated significant storylines in the weeks leading up to January 6. The Constitution requires the vice president — who is also president of the Senate — to preside over the counting of electoral votes to certify the presidential election. Historically, however, this task has sometimes been given to the “president pro tempore of the Senate”, usually the most senior senator in the majority. As of 2021, Grassley held that position.

California State Bar attorney Duncan Carling also pressed Eastman to address some of the allegations against him in the Georgia indictment. For example, they asked him about his contacts with attorney Robert Cheeley, one of the other co-defendants in the Georgia case, about efforts to connect Eastman with Georgia legislative leaders. (Eastman said these contacts were also privileged between lawyer and client).

And Carling probed his relationship with attorney Kenneth Chesebro, another Trump co-defendant who was the architect of Trump’s last-ditch legal strategy to try to stay in power. Chesebro wrote memos that helped Trump’s efforts to put together fake lists of pro-Trump presidential voters in seven states won by Joe Biden, and said it was crucial that these ‘contingent’ voters get together and vote on December 14, 2020, the same day. the day state-certified Biden voters voted for themselves.

Eastman said he had a minimal relationship with Chesebro until late December, though he was also pushing for pro-Trump “substitute” voters to come together. “I did not deal directly with Mr. Chesebro at that time,” Eastman said.

Instead, he said other people in Trump’s orbit passed him some Chesebro memos. And Eastman suggested he had never seen a single key memo – a Dec. 6, 2020 document recently discovered by The New York Times – until bar attorneys showed it to him this week.

Eastman’s limited contact with Chesebro changed later in December, Eastman said, when he directly asked Chesebro’s opinion on a now infamous two-page memo he authored that featured a set of options for Pence on January 6. Eastman said Wednesday that Chesebro “added a paragraph and changed a few words” in that memo. A December 23, 2020 email discovered by the January 6 select committee alluded to Chesebro’s role in the memo.

“All of Ken’s edits are fine with me,” Eastman wrote in the message to Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn, with an attachment titled “PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL – Dec. 23 memo on Jan. 6 scenario.”

It’s that same email in which Eastman also hinted that he thought Grassley could play a role on Jan. 6. In the message, Eastman told Epshteyn that he hoped members of Congress would avoid taking any action that could “coerce Pence (or Grassley)” into asserting power to block Biden’s election.

Carling asked Eastman if the email suggested there had been talks about replacing Pence with Grassley. After Eastman indicated the matter was privileged, Carling moved on to another topic.

A spokesperson for Grassley said the senator had “no indication” that Trump and his aides were discussing the possibility of him chairing the Jan. 6 joint session.

“All that was expected was for Pence to be present and chair,” the spokesperson said.

Grassley has also previously indicated that he had no knowledge of Eastman’s strategy of using the Jan. 6 session to block Biden’s election.

But the exchange points out that there are still important unknown details about Trump and his allies’ behind-the-scenes planning ahead of Jan. 6.

Grassley sparked a furor on Jan. 5, 2021, when he told Pence reporters “we don’t expect him to be here, I’ll be president of the Senate.” His comments prompted Pence’s staff to set the record straight, which ultimately culminated in a statement from Grassley’s office that the senator had been “misinterpreted” and was simply saying he could replace Pence during parts of the proceedings this that day.

Eastman wasn’t the only one to raise the possibility of Grassley presiding. Chesebro also mused in a Dec. 13, 2021, email that Pence might voluntarily step down from his Jan. 6 role and allow him to return to “Chuck Grassley or another high-ranking Republican.”

Eastman appeared on the stand on at least four different days in a dismissal trial that began in June but was postponed for two months due to scheduling constraints. The Georgia indictment unveiled last month threatened to upend California proceedings; Eastman unsuccessfully pleaded with his California judge to delay his dismissal trial until after the Georgia case. After losing that effort, Eastman opted to return to the helm and answered a series of questions about his effort and intentions ahead of Jan. 6.

Trump aides and a lawyer for Chesebro did not immediately respond to requests for comment.