May 7, 2023


The Arch Conservative Jurist Who Helped Save American Democracy From Trump (STEVE CHAPMAN, MAY 6, 2023, The UnPopulist)

A decisive moment leading up to the riot at the U.S. Capitol came when Vice President Mike Pence was considering whether he could reject electoral votes submitted by some states, thus blocking the certification of the 2020 presidential election. A lawyer for Pence reached out to J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge, who told him that the vice president had no such authority.

In a series of tweets on Jan. 5, Luttig proceeded to refute the claim of John Eastman and others who told Donald Trump that Pence could keep him in office,. Luttig wrote: "The only responsibility and power of the Vice President under the Constitution is to faithfully count the electoral college votes as they have been cast. The Constitution does not empower the Vice President to alter in any way the votes that have been cast, either by rejecting certain of them or otherwise." Pence followed that guidance--and, despite the mob attack the next day, Congress proceeded with the transfer of power to Joe Biden.

The former judge has won considerable praise for his counsel to Pence. To many people familiar with Luttig's record as a devout conservative, his decision to oppose Trump's effort and to testify against him before the Jan. 6 House committee last summer may have been a surprise. But it was not the first time Luttig had shown the courage and integrity to stand up to an overreaching Republican president.

At first glance, Luttig would seem an unlikely candidate to become a hero to liberals and Never Trumpers.

As assistant attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, he helped to guide Clarence Thomas through his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Among his closest friends were Justice Antonin Scalia and Trump Attorney General William Barr. His law clerks included Alex Azar, who was secretary of health and human services under Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who once described Luttig as "like a father to me," and John Eastman - the same one who told Trump that Pence could refuse to accept electors. Being highly conservative,  intellectually formidable and suitably young, Luttig was on George W. Bush's shortlist for the Supreme Court. Though he was passed over for two vacancies,  filled by John Roberts and Samuel Alito in 2005, he remained a strong contender for a future nomination.

But while innumerable prominent conservatives fell under the spell of Trump before or during his presidency, surrendering their principles in the process, Luttig did not.

Posted by at May 7, 2023 12:00 AM