Why John Eastman mentioned Florida during the Jan. 6 hearings

He was talking about the 2000 election, not 2020.
John Eastman, former lawyer of former President Donald Trump, appears on the screen during the fourth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.
John Eastman, former lawyer of former President Donald Trump, appears on the screen during the fourth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. [ MANDEL NGAN | Getty Images North America ]
Published Jun. 29, 2022|Updated Jun. 30, 2022

Floridians watching the Jan. 6 committee hearings last week may have been surprised to hear their state mentioned in connection with the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn the election.

The reference to Florida came when the committee played a December 2020 video of John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who aided in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

In the video, Eastman is recorded telling Georgia lawmakers: “You could also do what the Florida Legislature was prepared to do, which is to adopt a slate of electors yourselves.”

He went on to say that it was the “duty” of the Georgia state officials to send an alternate slate of electors to vote for Trump.

Some viewers who picked up on the mention wondered if it meant Florida’s 2020 Legislature had prepared an alternate slate of pro-Trump electors in case Joe Biden won the state.

In fact, Eastman’s remarks about Florida referenced the 2000 presidential election, not the 2020 election, said a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park, who serves on the Jan. 6 investigative committee.

The 2000 presidential election saw Florida — whose 25 electoral votes would decide the victor nationally — mired in a weekslong recount process, with a few hundred tightly contested ballots separating Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately weighed in on the disputed results, ruling 5-4 in Bush v. Gore against continuing a recount. Florida’s electoral votes, and the presidency, consequently went to Bush.

Eastman told the Georgia Senate in 2020 that, before the Supreme Court settled the dispute, committees in Florida’s House of Representatives and Senate passed resolutions that would enable them to send their own group of electors to the Electoral College. Lawmakers introduced those resolutions in the face of a looming deadline to send electors to the electoral college with the results still undecided.

The House of Representatives passed that plan, but the state Senate chose not to advance it further.

Eastman said he had testified before the state Legislature as part of that process.

When speaking to the Georgia Senate, Eastman positioned Florida as an example of a state legislature leveraging its authority to toss out election results it deemed invalid, and to send its own electors.

He argued that the Trump campaign’s baseless accusations of voter fraud gave the Georgia Legislature justification to take the same measures — even though Florida lawmakers never went through with such a plan.

Related: Trump knew Jan. 6 protesters had weapons, lunged at Secret Service agent, ex-aide says

“Whatever provisions may be made by statute or by the state constitution to choose electors by the people, there is no doubt that the federal Constitution gives the right to the legislature to resume that power at any time,” Eastman said. “That is what the Florida Legislature was prepared to do in 2000.”

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That philosophy was central to what the Jan. 6 committee called a “pressure campaign” by Trump against officials in swing states that went for Biden to overturn the results. Those collective efforts were the focus of the committee’s hearing on June 21.

Spokespeople for both the Florida House and Senate leadership told the Tampa Bay Times that top lawmakers never spoke with Trump’s legal team about alternate electors for the 2020 election. DeSantis’ office did not respond to two emails asking the same question.

Eastman conceded to the Georgia lawmakers that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore stipulated that a state can’t send an alternate slate of electors simply because it disagrees with the results of a free and fair election. Instead, he doubled down on debunked allegations of fraud.

The Jan. 6 committee began holding hearings on June 9. The hearings will continue in July.