January 6 committee restricts legal fight against Eastman as hearings near

The panel’s decision to drop its objections to the vast majority of Eastman’s attorney-client confidentiality claims follows Eastman’s own decision to relent on more than 15,000 pages of documents, which he provided to the committee. restricted on Monday. These documents helped inform the committee’s decision to restrict the fight.

“The select committee’s need for the documents at issue has only become more important in light of its review of the documents produced … and as the select committee prepares to present the findings of its investigation to the public through hearings, which are expected to begin in June 2022 and upcoming reports,” Letter wrote.

Chairman Bennie Thompson says he expects the committee to begin a series of eight public hearings on June 9.

The battle over those 3,000 pages marks the culmination of one of the two most significant legal odysseys the committee has undertaken. In another historic legal fight, the committee prevailed over Trump himself, who sued to stop the National Archives from releasing thousands of pages of his White House records to investigators. But the Supreme Court ultimately ended Trump’s fight, and the archives have provided tons of crucial evidence since January.

The committee’s effort against Eastman was longer and more complicated. It began in January when the committee subpoenaed Chapman University, Eastman’s former employer, for 90,000 pages of Eastman’s emails. Eastman sued to stop Chapman from complying, and the suit landed in U.S. District Court Judge David Carter.

Carter quickly made it clear that he believed in the urgency of the select committee’s work and ordered Eastman to review 1,500 pages of emails a day to file any solicitor-client claims. He also granted the committee’s request to prioritize a review of emails sent between Jan. 4 and Jan. 7, 2021. In a landmark decision in March, Carter ruled that Eastman and Trump likely engaged in a criminal plot to overturn the election, with Eastman using his legal theories to whitewash Trump’s attempt to overthrow the Constitution.

Carter memorably described the effort as “a coup in search of legal theory,” and he granted the committee access to several hundred pages of emails exchanged by Eastman on those key dates.

Since that decision, the committee has continued to tussle with Eastman over more than 35,000 pages of emails related to his work for Trump that span November 3, 2020 through January 3, 2021. Eastman agreed last month to share more than 15,000 of those pages with the committee, in light of Carter’s earlier decision. But he maintained that the other 20,000 were covered by solicitor-client privilege.

Now the select committee is asking Carter to review 2,945 of those pages for immediate release. If Eastman objects, the commission has set out a quick timeline to resolve the dispute by the end of May, allowing time to review and analyze the documents before the commission launches its public hearings.

But Eastman, in a legal filing Saturday, said he wasn’t sure the rush made sense. He says he still hasn’t seen the list of documents the select committee wants and therefore can’t pass judgment on the nature of the fight.

“Without knowing which documents remain in issue, Plaintiff is unable to offer a position on the continued need for discovery, an appropriate disclosure timeline, or whether further narrowing of disputed questions of privilege is possible,” write Eastman attorneys Charles Burnham and Anthony Caso. .

Eastman argued that the committee’s need to hold public hearings is not a legitimate reason for Carter to expedite its review of the documents, noting that the committee is primarily tasked with developing legislative recommendations to thwart future efforts. aimed at reversing the transition of power.

“The committee did not identify any potential legislation delayed due to the absence of Dr. Eastman’s emails,” the lawyers wrote. “Presenting ‘findings’ at ‘public hearings’ is not a valid legislative objective. »


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