Anatomy of a Tweet: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How Retired Federal Judge Michael Luttig Used Twitter to Try to Stop an Insurgency


By Jamie Gangel and Jeremy Herb, CNN

Retired federal judge Michael Luttig never expected to get into the uphill battle for certification of the 2020 presidential election. And he certainly never imagined he would end up using Twitter to help the former Vice President Mike Pence to challenge President Donald Trump.

But on the night of January 4, while at his home in Colorado, Luttig received a call from an old friend, Richard Cullen, Pence’s personal attorney. Cullen had a simple request:

“Tell me about John Eastman,” Cullen said.

Eastman, one of Luttig’s former lawyers, had just been in an Oval Office meeting with Trump to try to pressure Pence to void the election. Eastman had also written a now famous dot-by-dot memo which described a wacky legal argument justifying the fact that Pence had no obligation to certify the election of Joe Biden.

“I immediately understood the significance of the moment,” Luttig said of the call to CNN. “I understood that this was a defining moment in history. And that I had to play a role, if only for the reason that my former clerk was advising the president and the vice-president that we don’t did not have to accept the vote of the electoral college.

Luttig told Cullen that Eastman was wrong. “I said, ‘Well, you know, there’s no doubt that the vice president has no choice in constitutional matters. “”

“Well, I thought that was what you were thinking,” Cullen said.

The two eventually hung up but early the next morning, January 5, Cullen called back. This time there was urgency in his voice. Pence was supposed to meet with Trump, and Cullen wanted to make sure the vice president was armed with his own legal argument. And who better to override Eastman than his former boss.

“I don’t really remember his exact words. But the bottom line was, ‘Is there anything you can do to help and support the vice president?’ “Luttig related Cullen’s question.

Luttig was ready to help but wasn’t sure what he could do.

“I just blanked out,” Luttig said. “At first, I didn’t even know what he meant. But above all, he didn’t know either.

The question of what could be done sparked a series of frantic calls between the two old friends that morning. Cullen told Luttig he’d call back in five or ten minutes. When he did, as Luttig finished his cup of coffee, Cullen asked him if he had thought of anything.

“And I said, ‘No, I really didn’t,'” Luttig recalled.

Cullen told him time was important and he would call back in five minutes. After a few more back and forths, Luttig finally told Cullen that he had just made a Twitter account a few weeks earlier. There was only one problem, Luttig told Cullen: “I don’t know how to tweet. And I don’t know how to tweet a thread, I think that’s what you call it.

Cullen told Luttig a tweet would be fine, but Luttig was still hesitant. Not only did he not know how to do it, but he wanted to be sure that Pence was on board.

Five minutes later, Cullen called back and said Pence would agree with whatever Luttig tweeted.

“I gave in and said, ‘Okay Richard, I don’t like it, doing something that’s national, on behalf of the Vice President of the United States, when he doesn’t even know what I’m going to say,” Luttig recounted. “And Richard says, ‘I understand, but we have to do this. Let’s go.'”

Luttig started typing what he wanted to say. Not only did he want the words to be exact, but he also had to figure out how to create a Twitter feed.

“All of my technology is, in those moments, is pretty hilarious in retrospect, because I didn’t know how to do all of this.”

Looking back, Luttig laughed at how long it took him to create the series of tweets that morning.

“And so I’m sitting there, Richard going a little crazy, saying… ‘Have you ever done this? Have you ever done this?’

And I said, ‘I’m trying.’

A self-proclaimed Twitter novice, Luttig sent his first tweet a few weeks earlier and asked his son to help him figure out how to use the platform.

“After that first tweet, I had my son who is a tech guy. And I said, ‘Look, just tell me how to do this.’ You know how kids are these days. So he wasn’t going to waste his time teaching me how to do that, so he just sent me the official instructions from Twitter or whatever you call it, on how to make a tweet thread.

Luttig had recorded the instructions on his computer’s home screen and that morning he had carefully followed the steps to create a thread. Even with the countdown, he took his time to make sure he understood.

Luttig first typed his statement into a Word document, then counted the number of characters and cut and pasted them into seven precise threads.

” I am a perfectionist. So I went through that, maybe five or 10 times on Twitter, before I hit the button,” Luttig recalls. “Getting it exactly how I wanted it, making sure there were no typos. And then, finally, press the button.

At precisely 9:53 a.m. EST on January 5, Luttig tweeted his statement that the Constitution gave Pence no power to reject voters and void the election as Trump demanded.

The next day, January 6, Pence quoted Luttig’s tweets in his letter explaining why he would certify the election. pence wrote“More recently, as former United States Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig observed, ‘[t]The sole responsibility and power of the Vice President under the Constitution is to faithfully count the Electoral College votes as cast,’ adding,'[t]The Constitution does not allow the Vice President to alter in any way the votes that have been cast, either by disallowing certain votes or otherwise.

Luttig had no idea that Pence had seen his tweet, or was going to quote him, until Pence released his statement.

The next day, January 7, Luttig received another phone call. This time it was from Pence himself. According to a source familiar with the call, Pence thanked Luttig for the tweets and the role he played. It was the first time the two men had spoken to each other. To date, they have never met in person.

“[Pence] knew what he was doing,” Luttig said. “I was the only person in America who could come above everyone involved and give the vice president the support he wanted and needed.”

More than a year later, Luttig remains active on Twitter and confirmed to CNN that he still keeps Twitter feed instructions on his computer home screen.

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