- A retired conservative federal judge is slamming the GOP for its censure of Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger.
- Judge J. Michael Luttig called it “utter madness” and “the definition of failed leadership.”
- Luttig, a highly-respected conservative legal figure, is now forcefully speaking out.
A retired conservative federal judge slammed what he called “nonsense” and “utter madness” pervading the Republican Party in the wake of the Republican National Committee’s censure of two of its own members of Congress, calling it “the definition of failed leadership” to the Los Angeles Times.
Judge J. Michael Luttig, a widely-respected conservative legal figure, clerked for former Supreme Court Justices Warren Burger and Antonin Scalia, served for over a decade on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and was twice considered for the Supreme Court during the George W. Bush administration.
Luttig retired from the federal judiciary in 2006, but continues to be highly influential in the conservative legal world — and made a significant splash with a January 5, 2021 Twitter thread of legal analysis laying out why former Vice President Mike Pence couldn’t overturn the 2020 election on January 6.
Now, Luttig is deeply troubled by the RNC’s vote to censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their work on the House committee investigating the insurrection, Trump attacking Pence for arguing that he couldn’t have overturned the 2020 election, and Trump continuing to whack Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“This feels like a seminal moment in America when all of what the country has witnessed and endured for these years seems to be building to volcanic crescendo,” he wrote in an email to LA Times columnist Jackie Calmes. “We are in political war to the death — with each other.”
Luttig called the RNC censure and the lack of pushback to it a sign of “failed leadership,” but noted that politics isn’t his expertise.
“Nobody cares what Judge Luttig thinks about politics, nor should they,” Luttig said in a new interview with Politico Playbook’s Ryan Lizza. “The only thing that matters to me in my life is the law.”
Still, Luttig is deeply concerned about the trajectory of the Republican Party and recently spoke to Checks & Balances, an organization of conservative lawyers who believe in principles like “the rule of law” and “the power of truth.”
“For the past six years, I have watched and listened in disgust that not one single leader of ours with the moral authority, the courage and the will to stand up and say, ‘No, this is not who we are, this is not what America is and it’s not what we want to be,’ has done so,'” he told the group, according to the LA Times.
Luttig also detailed the backstory behind his January 5 Twitter thread in the Politico Playbook interview.
The thread began with an early-morning phone call from an outside counsel to Pence, Luttig scrambling (and enlisting his son) to help him write the Twitter thread, Luttig “floored” and “honored” to see his tweets showing up in Pence’s open letter before presiding over the Joint Session on January 6, and Pence calling Luttig the next day (as Luttig was waiting in line at a UPS store) to thank him.
A few weeks later during Trump’s second impeachment, Luttig advised several Republican senators on whether a former president could be subject to impeachment and conviction after leaving office (Luttig argued that the Constitution does not provide for impeachment of an ex-president).
Luttig has since testified to the House Select Committee on January 6, the LA Times reported, and is one of several top legal minds advising Republicans in a bipartisan group of US Senators looking to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887.
The once-obscure 19th-century law that governs how Congress counts Electoral College votes was in the spotlight on January 6, 2021, as Trump and his allies urged Pence to disregard the law in order to overturn the election. Legal scholars and experts from across the political spectrum argue the law’s ambiguities and lack of clarity on key points make it vulnerable to exploitation by bad-faith political actors.