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Ex-federal judge and prominent conservative: ‘There is no Republican Party’

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By Shawna Mizelle, CNN

Washington (CNN) — J. Michael Luttig, a conservative retired federal judge and key adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, declared on Wednesday that “there is no Republican Party” and said former President Donald Trump is even more dangerous than he was in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

“American democracy simply cannot function without two equally healthy and equally strong political parties. So today, in my view, there is no Republican Party to counter the Democratic Party in the country,” Luttig, who advised Pence on how to handle the January 6, 2021, election certification vote, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “CNN This Morning.” “And for that reason, American democracy is in grave peril.”

Luttig, who holds bona fide conservative credentials with longstanding ties to the Supreme Court, has become increasingly outspoken in sharing his criticisms of the GOP, calling the party “spineless” in June over its continued support of Trump.

“A political party is a collection and assemblage of individuals who share a set of beliefs and principles and policy views about the United States of America. Today, there is no such shared set of beliefs and values and principles or even policy views as within the Republican Party for America,” he said on Wednesday.

Luttig also sought to shoot down possible legal defenses that Trump could mount to address the federal charges to which he has pleaded not guilty. The former judge said that by charging Trump with criminal offenses of conduct, not speech, special counsel Jack Smith ensures that there could not be a First Amendment defense from Trump’s legal team.

Asked by Harlow if Trump could use the premise that the former president actually thought he’d won the election, Luttig also struck down that defense notion “because the evidence is overwhelming that the former president knew full well that he had lost the election. And the standard will be, could a reasonable person have believed otherwise in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

The former judge on the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals was a key witness at the January 6 committee hearings last year and throughout his career he was known as one of the top “feeder judges” on the court of appeals level, sending 45 of his 47 clerks to clerk for justices on the high court.

Trump ally and attorney John Eastman, who drafted the point-by-point memo claiming Pence could stop the certification on January 6, was also a clerk for Luttig. Pence relied on Luttig’s guidance when he decided to defy Trump and certify the results of the election on January 6.

While testifying last year before the House Select Committee tasked with investigating January 6, Luttig called Trump “a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

Doubling down on that assertion Wednesday morning, Luttig said he views Trump as a danger even “more so today” than when he testified due to the former president’s continuous push to falsely claim the election was stolen from him.

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