At this time, in his first in-depth interview on the subject, Luttig shares the story of these days earlier than the riot, when he was unknowingly enlisted to assist Pence reject Trump’s efforts on Jan. 6.
For “Playbook Deep Dive,” Ryan Lizza talks with Luttig about his recommendation to Pence then, what must be accomplished to rewrite the Electoral Rely Act now and why he’s selecting this second to make his authorized commentary loud, clear and very public — in panel discussions and op-eds in publications like The New York Times. A transcribed excerpt from that dialog is beneath, edited for size and readability.
J. Michael Luttig: I used to be first referred to as by the vp’s outdoors counsel, Richard Cullen, on the night of Jan. 4. We now know that that was after the fateful Oval Workplace assembly that day between the president and vp, the place John Eastman made the argument that the vp might overturn the election unilaterally as presiding officer.
Ryan Lizza: And John Eastman?
Luttig: John Eastman was one in every of my clerks — over 25 years in the past — and Richard Cullen is one in every of my closest associates in all of life. And we had been, at that time, speaking seemingly every single day — if not a number of occasions a day — all through all the Trump administration as a result of, after all, our shut pal, Invoice Barr, was lawyer common.
So he referred to as me. I used to be having dinner. No massive deal: that is like your finest pal calling. He referred to as the evening of the 4th and says, “Hey, Choose, what are you aware about John Eastman?” And I mentioned, “He was a clerk of mine 30 years in the past.” He says, “Properly, what else are you aware?” I mentioned, “I don’t know. John’s an instructional, he’s a professor, he’s a constitutional scholar — and he’s a sensible constitutional scholar.”
Lizza: That is type of stunning to listen to you say this, contemplating the best way that most individuals have been launched to John Eastman.
Luttig: Properly, learn every thing that was written about him earlier than, , Jan. 6.
Lizza: In order that’s attention-grabbing: the one that was the architect of the tried coup, basically — I feel it’s truthful to make use of that language — was truly a well-respected authorized thoughts with sound views of the Structure and never some authorized quack.
Luttig: That’s appropriate: The farthest factor from it. So Richard mentioned, “Properly, you don’t know, do you?” And I mentioned, “Know what?” He mentioned, “John’s advising the president and the vp that the vp has this authority [to reject electoral votes] on January 6” — two days therefore. And I mentioned, “Wow, no, I didn’t know that. Properly, look, you may inform the vp that I mentioned that he has no such authority in any respect. And Richard mentioned he is aware of that, I mentioned OK, and we hung up.
So I informed my spouse concerning the name, and I mentioned, “Wow. That is massive.” I received up the subsequent morning — I rise up about 4:45 — and I’m having my espresso, and Richard calls — which isn’t uncommon. However the name was uncommon. He mentioned, “Choose, are you able to assist the vp?” And I mentioned, “Certain, what does he want?”
He mentioned, “Properly, we don’t know what he wants.” And I mentioned, “What do you imply you don’t know what he wants? Then why are you calling me?” He mentioned, “Look, that is severe.” I mentioned, “OK, I perceive. What would you like?” He’s speaking with Marc Quick and the vp. And he says, “We have to do one thing publicly, get your voice out to the nation.”
At that time, I mentioned, “Oh my gosh, Richard, I don’t also have a job, a lot much less an official one. I’ve no platform from which to talk.” I’m out right here in Colorado at 6 within the morning. I don’t also have a fax machine. I mentioned, “I actually don’t also have a thought.” And he mentioned, “That is pressing.” I mentioned, “I perceive.” He mentioned, “I’ll name you again in 5 minutes.” So we hung up, and I sat there, completed my espresso — simply racking my mind.
Simply attempt to put your self in my place. I had not a clue [what to say].
So he calls me again in 5 minutes: “You bought something but?” And I mentioned, “No, I don’t, Richard.” He says, “I’ll name you again in 10 minutes.” So he calls again in 10 minutes, and I mentioned, “Richard, sincere to goodness, I’ve no earthly concept what I can do.” And he says, “I’ll name you again in 10 extra minutes, however we’ve received to maneuver.” He referred to as again in 10 minutes, and I mentioned, “Alright, I opened a Twitter account a few weeks in the past, however I don’t know easy methods to use it.” He mentioned, “Good.” And I mentioned, “I informed you: I don’t know easy methods to use it.” He mentioned, “Determine it out and get this accomplished.” So I referred to as my tech son who works for Peter Thiel, and I mentioned, “How do I tweet one thing greater than 180 characters lengthy?
Lizza: Wait a second. You’re within the place right here the place the vp is being pressured by the president of america to overturn the outcomes of the election. And also you’re the go-to authorized thoughts who’s revered amongst Republicans that the vp is trying to to basically cease a coup. Do I’ve that proper?
Luttig: To reply the query you’re asking: I understood the gravity of the second and the momentous process that I used to be being requested to assist the vp with. I had been following all of this very carefully within the days main as much as it. It was then — and will without end be — probably the most vital moments in American historical past. I’m a lower up, however I’m lethal severe when the time comes, and that day, I used to be as severe as I can probably be.
Lizza: However first, you’ve received to discover ways to tweet.
Luttig: So my son … nicely, first off, he says, “Dad, I don’t have time for this. You’ve received to be taught these items by yourself. … I’m busy.” To which I mentioned one thing like, “Simply inform me proper now easy methods to get this accomplished, or I’ll lower you out of the desire.”
The one factor I knew easy methods to do was kind out in prose all I needed to say. Properly, that was like 10 tweets [long]. So I am going right down to my workplace, and I open up the [Twitter] directions on my laptop computer and I copy and paste what I’ve written on my iPhone into my laptop computer right into a Phrase doc, after which I set about to divide it up into 180-character tweets. I learn it and reread it a number of occasions after which, I take a deep breath and I hit “tweet.”
Nearly instantly, reporters began calling me: “Choose, what are you doing?” And I say, “What do you imply?” And so they mentioned, “You didn’t simply tweet what you simply tweeted for no motive.” And … I mentioned, “If I tweeted this for a motive, I’d not be at liberty to inform you.” Minutes later, The New York Occasions ran the tweet…
Lizza: And extra importantly, the vp cited your authorized evaluation on Jan. 6 in his well-known letter explaining what his duties and authorities had been that day.
Luttig: Sure, that could be the best honor of my life. However it got here to my consideration within the least auspicious manner. I received two back-to-back emails on [January] sixth from two of my clerks — each of them to the impact of: “Choose, we all know what you’re doing.” And I mentioned, “Guys, I don’t know what you’re speaking about.” They mentioned, “The vp is on his solution to the Capitol, and he cited you in his letter to the nation.” And so they despatched me a replica of it.
That’s the primary time that I ever knew what was to occur with the tweet from the day earlier than. Nobody had ever informed me that. I had no concept. And so they clearly didn’t need and didn’t intend to inform me — and that’s effective; it’s none of my enterprise. I used to be floored to learn that and honored.
Lizza: That was a complete shock? In an important second of Vice President Pence’s life, that letter justifying that no, he can not overturn the outcomes; his function as merely ministerial — that was a complete shock to you that he cited your authorized evaluation because the justification for his view?
Luttig: Full, utter shock. And the vp referred to as me the subsequent morning to thank me.
Lizza: Are you able to inform us a bit of bit about that dialog?
Luttig: He was essentially the most gracious individual on the earth. I used to be at a UPS Retailer in Vail, Colorado, standing outdoors freezing, and my spouse was sending a bundle. A name got here [on my phone] as spam. I by no means reply spam calls, however I had nothing else to do. So I answered it. I mentioned nothing for seemingly 15 seconds. After which a voice mentioned, “Is that this Choose Luttig?” And I used to be startled and mentioned “Sure, it’s.” And the voice mentioned, “Please maintain for the vp.”
I scurried out to the automotive so I’d have some privateness. The vp received on: “Choose, that is Mike Pence.” And I mentioned to the vp that it was the best honor of my life that he had requested me and I might be grateful to him for the rest of my life.