Judge orders Eastman to speed effort to get documents to Jan. 6 committee

The judge is taking a more hands-on approach than any federal judge so far to aid the Jan. 6 select committee’s effort to access specific documents from a reluctant witness. Carter has repeatedly expressed support for the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation, ruling in the panel’s favor on three successive days and underscoring the “urgency” of the committee’s work to understand the causes of the attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, many seeking to stop the transfer of power from Trump to Joe Biden.

The effort by Carter followed a round of sniping between Eastman’s attorneys and the Jan. 6 committee’s lawyer, House counsel Doug Letter, who accused Eastman of slow-walking the court-ordered review.

Letter had accused Eastman of refusing to act expeditiously after Carter ruled Tuesday that Eastman should quickly begin reviewing and providing documents to the committee.

“The Select Committee is concerned about the pace of Plaintiff’s review,” Letter wrote in an update to the court Wednesday afternoon. “This Court ordered Plaintiff to begin work on production and create a privilege log on Tuesday, January 25, at 12:00 pm Pacific, yet it appears that Plaintiff has not even begun reviewing the documents at issue.”

Eastman’s attorneys Charles Burnham and Anthony Caso, who filed their own update to the court on Eastman’s behalf, bristled at the committee’s characterization. He said he received a batch of documents from Chapman University while in flight Tuesday and was unable to immediately download them. Eastman was also unable to immediately access them “due to the size of the file” and was unable to begin reviewing any materials until 10 pm Tuesday night.

“Plaintiff strongly disputes any suggestion from the congressional defendants that he has undertaken this privilege review with anything other than the greatest dispatch,” Burnham wrote.

Eastman has claimed that many of the emails held by Chapman would relate to his legal clients and therefore be subject to potential attorney-client privilege. In his Tuesday ruling, Carter said he would only entertain such claims on a document-by-document basis.

Under Carter’s plan, Eastman would be required to use an “electronic program” to speed up his review process, and the Jan. 6 committee would cover the cost of that program. Eastman would be required to produce a daily tranche of documents to the committee that he deems unprivileged.

The log of privilege claims would identify the date, number of pages, author and intended recipients of any of the emails and communications. It would also require a “general description” of the email and any attachments and the name of the client at issue, unless Eastman asserts privilege over the client’s identity.

Carter has asked Eastman and the committee to provide an additional update on Friday.

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