Garrett Epps in the Washington Monthly:
I reached out to Eastman for an interview, and to my surprise, he accepted gladly. When we spoke on the phone, he was exactly as I remembered—charming, voluble, seemingly candid, eager to engage in debates over legal theory. There was no hint that I was talking to a man brought to bay by some very powerful forces and facing the full shaming power of the Twitterverse; indeed, the conversation was more like a skull session one might have with a colleague in the faculty lounge. In no way did he admit, or seem to feel, that he had done anything wrong, or, except in the most general way, fire back against his accusers.
As a class, law professors are among society’s mildest, most rule-oriented members. We cite, analyze, and apply the law; we criticize it; we suggest improvements. We imagine new situations and suggest new doctrines to respond to them. We draft proposed statutes and regulations. We testify before legislative hearings.
We advocate for our ideas. We push the constitutional envelope and sometimes suggest unprecedented actions. And sometimes we advise private clients, government figures, and other lawyers. We pretty much don’t, as part of a normal career, conspire to violate the law; for constitutional scholars like John Eastman and me, it’s very unusual to be accused of conspiring to overthrow the government.
I can’t help seeing Eastman’s story as a cautionary tale about the peril that awaits all of us when we venture out of the daily world of rules and norms and into the shadow world created by a figure like Trump, whose persistent message is that he is above the law—indeed, that the very idea of “law” is irrelevant to someone like him—and that if we follow him, we can be above the law as well. I also think Eastman’s story tells us something about a serious wrong turn American conservatism took a quarter century ago, and about the dangerous path the Republican Party seeks to guide the nation on.