The early morning before the violent Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, the renowned conservative attorney and former federal Decide J. Michael Luttig been given an urgent connect with from Vice President Mike Pence’s exterior counsel: “Judge, we have to have to assistance the vice president. … We have to do a little something incredibly swiftly. … Someway, we need to get your voice out to the state.”
Luttig would before long challenge the now popular tweets imploring Pence not to buckle to former President Donald Trump’s pressure to block certification of the 2020 election success.
“The system was to overturn the election by way of the exploitation of what I have called the institutions of democracy and the devices and instrumentalities of our democracy,” Luttig explained to FRONTLINE in his very first television job interview, done in the guide-up to his testimony just before the Jan. 6 Dwelling decide on committee.
The hearings start off tonight. Luttig is anticipated to testify up coming 7 days.
“And we know now there is no issue about it,” Luttig stated. “They understood specifically what they were being accomplishing. And they considered it.”
In the expansive interview, Luttig reported he believes The usa is in the midst of the to start with constitutional crisis in its historical past. “I feel that the Structure never ever contemplated, and hence didn’t supply for, method and mechanisms to stand up to an attack on The us and her democratic processes from inside of,” he mentioned.
When confronted with word that another attorney — John Eastman, who had at the time clerked for Luttig — was telling Pence the vice president could unilaterally overturn the 2020 election, Luttig explained he responded, “you can inform the vice president that I explained that he has no this sort of authority at all.”
Examine and enjoy: Luttig’s extended job interview, with transcript
Luttig was aspect of the White Property counsel’s business office during the Reagan administration, clerked for the foreseeable future Supreme Court docket Justice Antonin Scalia and for Supreme Court docket Justice Warren Burger, worked for the Office of Justice under George H.W. Bush, and put in 15 years as a federal choose prior to leaving government in 2006 for the non-public sector.
In his job interview, an extended model of which is currently being revealed as aspect of FRONTLINE’s Transparency Job, Luttig pressured his ambitions to keep out of the political fray but took aim at the Republican Party and its leaders — primarily their censure of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — one particular of two Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee.
“The working day that I read with the rest of the region that the Republican Party experienced censured Liz Cheney was the closing straw for me, to the extent that I experienced a straw in the wind for Republican politics,” Luttig said. “Why? Simply because I never believe that that you have a political celebration at all if the putative users of that bash would censure Liz Cheney, simply just and simply for wanting to look into, as a member of Congress, the occasions of Jan. 6. It is unimaginable to me and my worldview of politics that any person in The usa would not favor an investigation of Jan. 6.”
Luttig ongoing: “In my check out, notwithstanding the politics, each individual single American citizen and each solitary member of Congress should really have urged an investigation of the activities of Jan. 6, which prospects me to my pessimism at the second.
“If the country’s response to Jan. 6 experienced been what it ought to have been, I would not have particularly any worries now for the nation and for our democracy.”
In the FRONTLINE interview, carried out for an impending documentary on the challenges to American democracy, the previous U.S. Court of Appeals decide recounted how, with the technological assist of his son, he posted his Jan. 5, 2021, Twitter thread, stating, “The only obligation and ability of the Vice President beneath the Constitution is to faithfully count the Electoral Higher education votes as they have been cast,” and, “the Constitution does not empower the Vice President to alter in any way the votes that have been solid, either by rejecting particular of them or otherwise.”
Luttig’s thread was picked up by important information stores. “I now know what I didn’t know then, which is the vice president’s group — all-inclusive, due to the fact I never know who in distinct — experienced The New York Instances holding for what turned out to be my tweet,” he stated in the Might 25 job interview with FRONTLINE producer Mike Wiser of the Kirk Documentary Group.
On Jan. 6, shortly right before Pence commenced presiding over the congressional certification of Biden’s presidential election victory, Pence introduced a assertion that cited Luttig’s reasoning. In bucking strain from then-President Trump, Pence reported the vice president did not have the “unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should really be counted and which should not.”
In the aftermath of the insurrection that followed, Luttig has known as for reform of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, whose “convoluted language,” he wrote in The New York Periods, “provides Congress the power to determine the presidency if it concludes that Electoral School slates representing the successful applicant ended up not ‘lawfully certified’ or ‘regularly given’ — obscure and undefined phrases — irrespective of irrespective of whether there is proof of illegal vote tampering.”
He also has warned that previous President Trump and his allies surface poised to “exploit” the act in what Luttig termed “The Republican blueprint to steal the 2024 election.”