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VAIL, Colo. — Impeachment politics and the possibility of presidential prosecution surprisingly keep cropping up here in Vail, where new Jan. 6 revelations are about as unexpected as an affordable place to live, a free parking space, untrammeled powder on a Saturday or a decent burger for under $20.
The latest Vail stunner comes courtesy of the Washington Post, which on Tuesday reported on a late-night phone call retired federal judge Michael Luttig received at his home here on Jan. 4, 2021, just two days before the insurrection by supporters of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol aimed at stopping Vice President Mike Pence from certifying Joe Biden as president.
Luttig, an arch-conservative former federal judge, fielded the call from an attorney for the former vice president, who had also spent the holidays skiing in Vail that year. The gist of it was that President Donald Trump was listening to attorney John Eastman – a former clerk for Luttig and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — who felt Pence could legally block electoral votes.
“… Luttig was eating dinner with his wife at their home in Vail when the phone rang. It was Richard Cullen, a longtime friend and former U.S. attorney in Virginia who was then serving as an outside attorney for Pence,” the Post reports. “Cullen was desperate for intel. An attorney he’d never heard of but who had represented Trump in lawsuits challenging the presidential election results was going around saying Pence had the authority to block certification of the 2020 election results. Cullen learned that it was a man named John Eastman and that in a previous life he had clerked for Luttig. Luttig, puzzled, told Cullen that Eastman is ‘brilliant.’”
Now facing a federal investigation, Eastman is notorious in Colorado as the author of the “coup memo” and an alleged “insurrectionist attorney” who hatched his plot while on the payroll of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Benson Center of Conservative Thought. He, too, is very familiar with the Vail Valley, having spoken at a conservative conference in Beaver Creek just a few months prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection, where he also helped fire up the Trump mob.
According to Tuesday’s reporting in the Post, Luttig told Pence’s attorney to advise the vice president he could not do what Eastman was calling for – a stance that gave Pence legal justification and political cover in conservative circles. But Cullen called Luttig back on Jan. 5 and urged him to make a public statement, which resulted in this Twitter thread. Luttig went on to testify last summer before the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The Vail connection apparently runs much deeper than Luttig simply owning a house here.
The Post reports that “as a young, lowly staffer in the Ford White House, [Luttig] worked on a book meant to bolster the president’s ill-fated 1976 campaign.” The late President Gerald R. Ford, of course, famously put Vail on the map when he started visiting as a Michigan congressman and then made it his western White House when he became both vice president and president during a tumultuous eight-month period in 1973 and ’74.
“What Nixon did was just an ordinary crime,” Luttig said of President Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation in the wake of the Watergate break-in. “What Trump has done is quite arguably the worst crime against the United States that a president could commit.”
Pence was in Vail on a family ski vacation in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection, and there’s been some astounding reporting on what was happening at that time, including this quote from Trump advisor and now convicted congressional scofflaw Steven Bannon: “‘You’ve got to return to Washington and make a dramatic return today,’” Bannon told [Trump], according to reporting in Woodward and Robert Costa’s book, ‘Peril’. ‘You’ve got to call Pence off the f—ing ski slopes and get him back here today. This is a crisis. We’re going to bury Biden on January 6th. We are going to kill … the Biden presidency in the crib.’”