Trump attorney John Eastman pushed Pennsylvania lawmakers to appoint alternate electors in bid to overturn Biden victory, emails show

Washington – An attorney with close ties to former President Donald Trump unsuccessfully urged the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to help overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory by recalculating vote counts and appointing a new slate of “Trump electors,” emails sent in the weeks following the election show. 

Trump lawyer John Eastman advised Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Russ Diamond to employ various mathematical tactics “to help provide some cover” in an apparent effort to reverse Biden’s 80,000 vote surplus in the state, according to records obtained by CBS News. 

The emails allege that Diamond initially contacted Eastman on Dec. 4, 2020, to claim that Pennsylvania’s presidential election had been unlawful and to ask for Eastman’s assistance in writing a state resolution that would appoint alternative electors to certify a Trump victory in Pennsylvania in the Electoral College. Diamond wrote that he had concerns about the election and was working to create a legislative tool to subvert the Biden victory in Pennsylvania and had found Eastman’s previous comments on the issue “compelling.” 

According to the emails, Eastman advised Diamond that Pennsylvania lawmakers could adopt a clause that would purge vote counts of allegedly “illegal votes” based on unfounded accusations of anomalies and fraud. Eastman advised that the legislature could adjust the final tally for ballots it deemed to be late or unverified, discarding some votes and prorating other counts. 

No evidence support claims of substantial numbers of illegal votes or voter fraud made by Trump, Eastman, and their allies following the 2020 election. Three days before Eastman and Diamond began communicating, Trump’s then-Attorney General William Barr disputed claims of widespread voter fraud.  “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the Associated Press in December of 2020. 

“Having done that math,” Eastman said of the vote counting, “you’d be left with a significant Trump lead that would bolster the argument for the Legislature adopting a slate of Trump electors — perfectly within your authority to do anyway, but now bolstered by the untainted popular vote.”

The messages were sent from Eastman’s University of Colorado Boulder email address – where he was a scholar in residence at the time – and released via a public information request submitted by the nonprofit Colorado Ethics Institute, as first reported by the Denver Post.  The records have since been sent to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, according to a memo accompanying the documents. The select committee declined CBS News’ request for comment. 

In another exchange between Eastman and Diamond, this time on Dec. 19, 2020, Eastman again advised the lawmaker to “assert the right to appoint an alternate slate of electors,” according to the records. 

“I hope that there is enough in there to shore up the spines of your colleagues, even if the Supreme Court does not act on it,” Eastman wrote Diamond on another occasion, the records reveal. 

An attorney for Eastman did not comment. 

On January 2, 2021, days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol,  Diamond appears to introduce Eastman to the majority leader of the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives, who Diamond characterized as “concerned” by Eastman’s proposed tactics. No other exchanges between Eastman and the state leader appear in the released emails. 

“Professor Eastman was but one of many individuals I interacted with in the aftermath of the 2020 General Election,” Rep. Diamond’s statement to CBS News said, in part. “As with any legislative effort, not every idea bounced around in draft form is included in the final product. I believe that…guarding and preserving the legitimate authority of the Pennsylvania General Assembly should always remain a priority, and that was my primary objective.” 

Eastman spoke at Trump’s “Save America” rally on the morning before the riot. He was among those who advised the former president in the wake of the election and was summoned by the House select committee investigating the attack to testify about the events leading up to the Jan. 6 riots. He declined to turn over documents and during his deposition asserted his Fifth Amendment right 146 times. 

Eastman’s University Boulder records are separate from those at issue in his lawsuit against the House committee, which stems from a Chapman University account over which he now claims privilege. 

The panel is still fighting Eastman for thousands of pages of documents and emails after it issued a subpoena to Chapman University, where he was a law professor and former dean of the law school.  The California judge presiding over that matter ruled in March that Trump “more likely than not” illegally tried to impede official congressional proceedings on January 6. 

“Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history,” U.S. District  Court Judge David Carter wrote. 

In a statement to CBS News, the University of Colorado Boulder said, “The University of Colorado produced a series of emails involving former visiting scholar John Eastman in response to a Colorado Open Records Act request from the Colorado Ethics Institute this spring. Before the CORA request, CU Boulder was not aware of the contents of the emails.”

Eastman was relieved of his outreach duties in representing the university soon after the January 6 attack and his appointed ended in June 2021. 

“University officials determined Eastman’s continued pursuit of these duties would likely be disruptive and damage the interests of the campus and the Benson Center,” the university said in a statement. Another statement announced the end of his affiliation with the university, noting that his classes had low enrollment 



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