Founded in 1979, the Claremont Institute has long provided a national refuge for serious conservative scholars to come together. As an organization, it provides fellowships to educate conservative influencers, supports legal action through briefs and lawsuits, and publishes the Claremont Review of Books.
In recent years the institute has swung far-right, choosing fellows with an authoritarian populist bent. For example, in 2019 it provided a fellowship to One America News Network pundit Jack Posobiec, a “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist with ties to white nationalists such as Richard Spencer. In May 2021, Posobiec accepted a position with the Trump-aligned Turning Point USA (TPUSA), whose founder Charlie Kirk was previously a Claremont fellow. In 2021, Claremont created a new fellowship program for sheriffs that includes study of “the roots of radical leftist ideology.”
The Claremont Institute is home to the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence (CCJ), among other projects, which sees itself “as a corrective to the legal establishment’s contempt for American principles of natural rights and limited government” and advocates for gun and property rights, and against women’s right to abortion. John Eastman, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, founded and runs the CCJ. The former law professor gained notoriety in late 2020 and early 2021 for advising Trump on ways to hold on to office for a second term despite his loss of the election.
Edward Erler, a senior fellow and director of the Claremont Institute, has espoused white nationalist ideas such as “replacement” theory and one of the Institute’s other projects, the Center for the American Way of Life, aims to defend “Republican self-government against the existential threat of identity politics.” Claremont’s current president, Ryan Williams, continues to fan the flames of a possible civil war, making comments such as: “The ideal endgame would be to effect a realignment of our politics and take control of all three branches of government for a generation or two.”
January 6, 2021
- Eastman wrote advisory memos claiming that then-Vice President Pence had the legal authority to reject states’ electors and reverse the outcome of the election. He also spoke at the Trump rally on the Ellipse, helping to fire up the mob that went on to attack Capitol Police, violently break into the building, and halt the congressional certification procedure underway.
- On Jan. 5, Bryan T. Kennedy, a former president of the Claremont Institute, tweeted that Trump supporters should “hold the line” and that it was “a revolutionary moment.”
The Big Lie
- As a conservative alternative to the Transition Integrity Project report on potential post-2020 election scenarios, the Claremont Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) produced their own report known as 79 Days to “game out” the post-election transition period and potential legal challenges to the results. The document criticized the scenarios that had been mapped out by the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans committed to ensuring a fair and transparent election.
- 79 Days predicted that lawsuits would be filed in many states with “Republicans seeking to uphold state law and Democrats seeking relief from state law.” It also asserted that if the Electoral College should not produce a clear winner, the incumbent House majority might refuse to seat newly elected members, and it raised the question of how long the Speaker of the House might serve as president pro tempore under the Succession Act.
- In addition, the Claremont/TPPF report alleged that major media and internet companies would suppress “information of which they don’t approve” and warned of the risk of attacks from China and Russia.
- Prior to the 2016 election, Michael Anton, a Claremont Institute scholar, wrote an essay entitled “The Flight 93 Election,” which warned readers that American democracy was in grave danger and they must take control of the cockpit or die.
- In November 2021, Vice reported that three of the institute’s leading figures (Eastman, Kennedy, and Williams) have been involved in state-level efforts to change voting rules and to elect Republicans who believe in the Big Lie. Kennedy allegedly attended the first meeting of a new “coalition” of MAGA candidates to “control the election system” by winning secretary of state offices in key states.