Lawyers for former President Donald Trump wrote multiple memos advising ways to overturn the 2020 election. Two previously unreported memos, uncovered by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, show how heavily the administration pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject Biden’s victory.
Reported for the first time in Karl’s upcoming book, Betrayal, covering the final days of the Trump administration, one memo was authored by Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis. It outlined a plan for Pence to overturn the election: On Jan. 6, Pence would reject the electoral votes from the six states Trump claimed (falsely) that he won. Then Pence would tell the states they had until “7pm eastern standard time on January 15th” to submit a new set of votes, but if they didn’t submit them in time, then “no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state.”
That essentially would put Trump and Biden in a tie situation, in which case, the decision would go to Congress. “Congress shall vote by state delegation,” Ellis wrote. The delegation vote would end with a Trump victory, Ellis believed, because the GOP had control over 26 state delegations.
A separate memo reported in the book and authored by Trump advisor John McEntee used a historically inaccurate argument to push Pence to use his power as vice president to keep Trump in power. The memo, titled “Jefferson used his position as VP to win,” was sent to Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short.
These weren’t the only memos of their kind circulating in Trump land. Another memo, obtained by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa and authored by conservative lawyer John Eastman, laid out a six-six-step plan for Pence to toss out the votes from seven states on the grounds that they allegedly had competing electors, although those competing electors were just Trump supporters without the necessary authority to vote as electors. But the Eastman memo didn’t come from someone who was working directly for Trump, as the Ellis and McEntee memos did.
These memos emphasize how dedicated Trump was to maintaining his power, democracy be damned, and how far his lawyers were willing to go to keep him in the White House. Karl also reported that Trump even made a last-minute phone call to Pence the morning of Jan. 6 in a final effort to convince him to do his bidding. In a March interview, Trump confirmed to Karl an earlier report that he had urged Pence to undermine democracy and not certify Biden’s win by saying on the call, “You can either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy.”