Trump in a new interview claimed that half of constitutional scholars support his false election claims.
“I’m telling you: 50/50, it’s right down the middle for the top constitutional scholars when I speak to them,” he told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.
Legal experts on both the left and right have said Trump’s claim was unconstitutional – including one of Trump’s impeachment lawyers.
Former President Donald Trump claimed in a new interview that half of constitutional scholars agree that former Vice President Mike Pence could have overturned his 2020 election loss, a move legal experts have routinely dismissed as an unconstitutional act likely to trigger a crisis.
Trump made the claim during an interview with ABC News’ correspondent Jonathan Karl for his forthcoming book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” slated for publication on November 16. Karl tweeted an audio snippet of the 90-minute interview on Friday.
“How can you – if you know a vote is fraudulent, right? – how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress? How can you do that?” Trump told Karl about Pence’s refusal to reject the election results when Congress met to certify them on January 6. “And I’m telling you: 50/50, it’s right down the middle for the top constitutional scholars when I speak to them.”
The election certification process is largely ceremonial. Pence, as the vice president and thus the president of the Senate, presided over it on January 6. At the time, Trump had pressured Pence to use his role to decertify the election results. That push came after the dismissal of dozens of lawsuits by Trump’s legal team challenging the results; federal judges, including conservative ones, dismissed them. The Supreme Court, which holds a 6-3 conservative majority, also rejected a Trump-backed bid to invalidate the results in key swing states.
Pence did not fulfill Trump’s request, vowing to abide by the Constitution, which gives him no authority to throw out electoral votes. Legal experts on both the left and right have said Trump’s claim was unconstitutional – including one of Trump’s lawyers from his first impeachment trial.
Lawyers and jurists have repeatedly rejected the former president’s claims. Even Trump’s then-White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, informed the president that Pence had no legal basis to overturn the election, according to Karl’s book. But Trump ignored him and relied on “rogue legal advisors” to help support his challenge, Karl writes. Jay Sekulow, Trump’s lawyer during his first impeachment trial, also said at the time that the former president’s claims are unconstitutional.
Some law firms distanced themselves from the lawsuits, and influential conservative attorneys opted not to represent them; the Republican party’s chief counsel, for example, called the fraud cases filed on behalf of Trump a “joke.”
Trump increasingly relied on a smaller circle of attorneys who suggested he could still make a case, advice that proved unrealistic given that all but one of the 62 suits failed in court. None established that any voter fraud on behalf of his opponent had occurred. The one ruling that sided with the Trump campaign was a challenge to a deadline extension in Pennsylvania to submit identification for mailed ballots. The victory was minor and did not affect the outcome of the race in the state, which Biden won.
In August, a federal judge in Michigan imposed sanctions, including fees and hours of legal training, on Powell over her 2020 election lawsuit in the state. She also faces potential disbarment.
Last month, a bipartisan group of former officials and lawyers sent a letter to the California bar association calling for an investigation into Eastman, the lawyer behind the memo that claimed Pence could overturn the election. The group said the state bar should look into whether Eastman violated attorney ethics by making false statements.
Eastman also retired as a law professor at Chapman University after more than 150 faculty members called for his removal following the January 6 insurrection.
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