It turns out that John Eastman wasn’t the only right-wing attorney urging former Vice President Mike Pence to effectively throw the election to former President Donald Trump by rejecting Electoral College votes from battleground states Trump lost. ABC News journalist Jonathan Karl reported Sunday that Jenna Ellis, a Trump attorney, had written her own memo essentially calling for a coup. Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows reportedly emailed her memo to Pence’s staff days before the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Karl’s reporting on the Ellis memo is included in his forthcoming book “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show.”
On the eve of the Capitol insurrection, Right Wing Watch reported on Ellis’s role in the demands brought by Trump’s legal team and right-wing activists that Pence abandon his constitutional duty and act to keep Trump in power:
On Dec. 27, Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, who is also a fellow at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, tweeted a link to what she called an “interesting” article in the hard-right American Thinker blog. That article contended that Pence’s power during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress would be “plenary and unappealable.” The article repeated many of Team Trump’s false claims that have been rejected by courts and were debunked in spectacularly methodical fashion by Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling on Monday. The article argued that Pence could and should declare that the states being challenged by Trump had “not conducted a presidential election” and therefore that their Electoral College votes should not be counted.
Ellis floated yet another possibility during a Monday interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody. Ellis said Pence should refuse to accept electors from states being challenged by Trump and throw the question of the electors’ legitimacy back to the state legislatures, something for which there is no legal or constitutional authority. With a straight face, Ellis said such an act “wouldn’t be political” and would create a “clean outcome” for the election. Brody endorsed Ellis’s scheme, tweeting, “Good idea!”
The plan Ellis talked about with Brody was apparently the same one she put on paper to pressure Pence. According to Karl, Ellis’ memo said that a Pence-led coup would work like this: Pence would halt the constitutionally mandated congressional counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 and give the battleground states until Jan. 15 to send a new set of votes. If no set of votes arrived by that time, the state’s Electoral College votes would not be counted. Ellis figured that would throw the election to the House of Representatives, where she believed Trump would be declared victor. (Eastman had a different take, arguing that if there were no Electoral College votes from the contested battleground states, Trump would have a majority of votes cast and would simply be declared president.)
Before the election, Ellis also pulled out all the stops in supporting Trump and demonizing his opponents, as Right Wing Watch noted earlier this year:
During the presidential campaign, Ellis had warned that “this election really boils down to either we’re preserving America, freedom, and liberty or we’re turning to socialism.” She described “the progressive left” as a “domestically grown enemy” that is trying to destroy “ordered society” and “create chaos.” And she said Democratic governors’ “tyrannical” COVID-19-related public health restrictions were evidence of a desire to impose a “communist government” and “the complete breakdown of a legitimate society.”
In spite of having served as Trump’s attorney and Rudy Giuliani’s sidekick in promoting bogus election claims and demands, Ellis has publicly styled herself as a courageous crusader for truth and for Christianity itself. Last year, she told Brody that progressives “are trying fundamentally to transform America into a post-modern culture that denies objective truth, that denies that there’s any morality, and certainly that denies God.”
A former fellow at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center—since renamed the Standing for Freedom Center—Ellis returned to Liberty University this past weekend to speak at the center’s “Freedom Uncensored” conference, where she argued, according to tweets from the center, that “The government’s role is to promote good and restrain evil” and that “We have to look to Scripture to build our political philosophy.”
Ellis’s comments at Liberty University were consistent with the worldview and approach to the Constitution reflected in her 2015 book, “The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution: A Guide for Christians to Understand America’s Constitutional Crisis.” She argued in the book that the Supreme Court “has systematically attempted to replace the firm foundations of law with amoral doctrines.”
“Divine Law” is “the only legitimate basis for constitutional authority,” she wrote, arguing that “Divine Law presumes rational, objective limits and the legislative bodies of social government have no power to influence, redirect, redefine, ignore, or legislate against rigid laws of science and morality.”
In her introduction, Ellis wrote that the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling left the states and the American people “in a Constitutional crisis greater than we have ever faced since the original Constitutional Convention in 1787.” Later in the book, she also criticized the Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas for “making same-sex sexual activity legal under a fabricated ‘privacy right’ found nowhere in the Constitution.”
In her acknowledgments, she thanked Michael Farris, head of religious-right legal giant Alliance Defending Freedom, for his mentorship. Farris contributed a foreword in which he gushed that Ellis “marshals facts, law, and history to make a clear defense of the theory that American law was created with the premise that Divine Law (God-given, objective moral law) is the ultimate standard of both truth and justice.” Farris called the book “one of the finest defenses of Christian legal theory of our era.”
Given her close relationship with Farris, it is not surprising that Ellis’s proposed solution to what she sees as the federal government’s abandonment of divine law is for states to call for an Article V Convention to propose constitutional amendments limiting the authority of the federal government—a project in which Farris and other religious-right leaders are intimately involved.