How bad were today’s January 6th hearings for Trump lawyer John Eastman? It turns out a Trump White House lawyer had warned him in real time that he was committing election crimes, and then Eastman sought a pardon before Trump left office, and then Eastman pleaded the fifth repeatedly to the January 6th Committee.
Pleading the fifth is not legally considered an indicator of guilt, but functionally it screams “please dig deeper on the thing I just pleaded the fifth on” to investigators. And being advised by the White House legal department that you’re committing crimes is evidence that you knew what you were doing was criminal in nature.
Eastman is, legally speaking, all kinds of screwed. At this point there’s little doubt that the DOJ’s January 6th grand jury, which has reportedly been subpoenaing people in Trump world for the past five months, is all over Eastman. So why hasn’t he been indicted yet?
For one thing, the DOJ’s goal is not to indict someone like Eastman. He’s obviously guilty of serious crimes against the United States and he should go to prison for a long time. But the DOJ has the far more important task of pinning down Donald Trump for these crimes. So the DOJ’s real goal in a situation like this is to get Eastman to cut a cooperation deal against Trump.
The DOJ can do this the hard way by indicting Eastman now, spending up to a year going to trial, getting a conviction against him, and hoping that the guilty verdict convinces Eastman to finally start cooperating. The quicker path – if the DOJ can pull it off – is to convince Eastman he’s so screwed, he decides to flip on Trump now instead of insisting on going to trial and losing first.
So if you’re wondering why the DOJ hasn’t indicted John Eastman yet, it’s likely for the same reason it hasn’t indicted Mark Meadows or Rudy Giuliani yet. The goal is to keep piling on with more and more ironclad cases against these Trump co-conspirators, so they’ll figure out they’re going to prison for a long time, and cut a deal against Trump.
It’s notable that the DOJ renewed its request today for closed door transcripts from the January 6th Committee. The DOJ clearly believes that the committee has obtained testimony that the DOJ has not been able to get on its own. That’s not surprising, given that the DOJ cannot require criminal targets to testify against themselves, but the committee has managed to get testimony from a number of these same targets under threat of contempt charges.
The committee will presumably turn over its closed door transcripts once its public hearings conclude next week. The DOJ is clearly eager to use these transcripts to turn up the heat against various people involved with this plot. Given the timing, we won’t be shocked if it turns out the DOJ is hoping to use closed door testimony to help turn the screws against people like Eastman and Giuliani. If the DOJ can flip them against Trump, then indicting Trump will become a much easier decision, and convicting Trump at trial will become a much easier task.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report