Trump lawyer who planned election overthrow to speak at conference despite objections

Politics

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — When John Eastman speaks during the American Political Science Association’s annual conference next month, he may want to tread lightly. Political scientists from across the country are condemning Eastman and chiding their own organization for allowing the former Trump lawyer to participate in the discipline’s most important annual meeting.

Eastman made national headlines this week following the publication of a memo he wrote last year that outlined a six-step plan to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Eastman is scheduled to participate in two panels at APSA, both run by the Claremont Institute, which lists him as a senior fellow on its website. The “virtual roundtables” are scheduled for Sunday, October 3, and are titled “The 2020 Elections and the State of American Conservatism” and “The Supreme Court’s Current and Future Direction.”

Dr. David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, said Wednesday that Eastman’s plan to overturn the presidential election puts his views well outside the legitimate marketplace of ideas.

“If that was published as a blog post,” Karpf said of the memo, “I would call it laughable trash. Since it was presented to the Vice President of the United States, I would call it treason.” The memo said that then-Vice President Mike Pence should refuse to recognize electors from seven states and declare Trump president.

“The main thing here,” Eastman wrote, “is that Pence should do this without asking for permission—either from a vote of the joint session or from the Court.”

That suggestion, according to Karpf, was beyond the pale. “That’s overthrowing free and fair elections,” he said.

Eastman’s notoriety goes beyond that memo. In 2020, he was widely criticized for an op-ed he wrote that suggested Kamala Harris is not an American citizen. Eastman, who was a law clerk for Clarence Thomas, was also a professor at Chapman University School of Law. He retired from that position after giving a speech at the January 6 “Save America” rally that preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

“He’s not a political scientist, but he and the Claremont Institute try to gain legitimacy by having little panels at APSA, where they present those sorts of arguments, or at least don’t have those arguments criticized,” Karpf, who is an APSA member, said. “That’s dangerous for American politics and APSA should not be associated with it.”

Karpf said that he believes those who attend the conference should make their views on Eastman and the Claremont institute clear. “Claremont should not be welcome anymore,” he said. “That’s not about the diversity of ideas. That’s about recognizing that there are some ideas that are so far outside of the boundaries of American political discourse that we should be not lending them our platform.”

This is not the first time political scientists have taken issue with APSA. In 2011, scholars opposed John Yoo’s participation in that year’s annual meeting. Yoo was a lawyer for former Pres. George W. Bush, who wrote documents outlining the alleged legality of torture techniques. In their response to members’ objections, APSA’s governing council said that it supported members’ right to protest Yoo’s presence “as we support the right of APSA members to produce panels and speakers on topics they think it important for the association to consider.”

In that letter, APSA clarified that “organizers of the affiliated group panel on which he participated,” not APSA itself, invited Yoo to the meeting. “These groups exist explicitly to bring forward diverse points of view,” the letter continued.

Like Yoo, Eastman is set to participate in a panel organized by an outside group, the Claremont Institute. On its website, Claremont Institute solicits donations of $5,000 to “support” its panels at the annual APSA conference.

“You may designate a gift at any level to APSA panels,” the Claremont page continues, “where our scholars teach the true principle of government and their application to today’s policies.”

For his part, Karpf has said he supports the diversity of ideas wholeheartedly. “I agree with the stance that we should have a diversity of ideas at the conference. I also would readily acknowledge that there are gray areas where it’s a difficult call,” he said. “But I think every political scientist, who has spent any time in America in the past four years, certainly since January 6, can look at that memo and immediately acknowledge that that is nowhere close to the line. There are difficult cases. And then there is this. This is not a typical case. This is so far beyond the line.”

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