A visiting scholar at the University of Colorado, who was recently praised as “fantastic” by the lone Republican who holds a statewide elected position in Colorado, stood by President Trump in the White House as he desperately tried to stop Congress from declaring Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
John Eastman, a controversial conservative figure who is currently a “visiting scholar” at CU Boulder’s Benson Center, a privately funded entity that promotes conservative views, was part of a last-ditch effort to convince Vice President Mike Pence to try to block certification of the presidential election based on baseless accusations of fraud.
Eastman, who’s been a fierce promoter of Trump’s misinformation and spoke at the Trump rally prior to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, was in the room as the president pressed Pence to execute an act that had no legal basis.
The New York Times reported yesterday: “In the Oval Office last week, the day before the vote, Mr. Trump pushed Mr. Pence in a string of encounters, including one meeting that lasted at least an hour. John Eastman, a conservative constitutional scholar at Chapman University, was in the office and argued to Mr. Pence that he did have the power to act.”
Eastman’s statements about election fraud were criticized last week by CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano, and faculty at Chapman University, where Eastman holds a faculty position, have asked that he be fired. Chapman’s president announced it would not fire the professor, but on Wednesday Chapman released news that the university and Eastman had reached an agreement under which Chapman will retire, effective immediately, and both parties will not pursue litigation including a claim of defamation.”
An Eastman fan at CU is CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, who holds the at-large seat on the CU Board of Regents. After Republican Sen. Cory Gardner’s loss in November, Ganahl is the only Republican who’s elected by voters statewide.
In December, Ganahl gushed over Eastman, despite his controversial statements.
“There are fantastic folks who come in [to the Benson Center],” said Ganahl in December. “Right now, it’s Dr. John Eastman, who’s riling some folks up.” Ganahl said the center teaches students about “the beauty of western civilization and the history,” and the faculty have “different point of view than most of the faculty at CU.”
Ganahl didn’t return a call seeking to know if she’d changed her view of Eastman.
Meanwhile, an progressive group aimed and empowering young people said Eastman should no longer be a visiting professor at CU.
“It’s undeniable now that Professor Eastman attempted to use the power and access granted to him as a professor to subvert democracy and enable white supremacists,” Nicole Hensel Executive Director of New Era Colorado told the Colorado Times Recorder. “Allowing him to retain his title as a visiting professor on the CU Boulder campus only enables him further—inaction sends the message that the University does not stand up for truth and integrity and that BIPOC students’ safety is not a priority.”
Eastman responded without citing evidence that election fraud has “subverted democracy.”
“State and local election officials who altered or ignored state election laws designed to protect against fraud in mail-in voting is what has subverted democracy,” Eastman emailed the Colorado Times Recorder when asked to comment on New Era’s stance. “Calling attention to that fact in formal legal pleadings before the Supreme Court of the United States, which is what I have done, is what subverts democracy. But it seems a lot of people are having trouble with that basic concept. As for ‘enabling white supremacists,’ I have done nothing of the sort, and would not do so. The claim is defamatory.”
Eastman, who is also an attorney, speculated in a Newsweek op-ed last year that Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris might not be legally qualified to be vice president, bringing accusations of birtherism. He’s said he was just raising the question.
CU President Mark Kennedy has not issued a statement on Eastman, but he did address the insurrection in an email to the campus community stating, in part, that the “appalling and deadly attack on Jan. 6, 2021, is our call to action. We all must do our parts to protect our democracy. Higher education bears a huge responsibility in this work.”
UPDATED Jan. 14 with statements from Chapman University and Mark Kennedy.