John Eastman, an ally of Donald Trump who authored a memo outlining how to overturn the 2020 election, is trying to shield approximately 11,000 documents from the Jan. 6 committee, citing privileges through his work as an attorney.
Politico reported on Monday that Eastman in a court filing said he has reviewed about half of the more than 94,000 emails the committee subpoenaed from Eastman’s former employer, Chapman University. Of these, about 8,000 are in the hands of the committee, while about 27,000 were deemed irrelevant to the subpoena. The rest, Eastman claims, are for his eyes only.
Eastman had fought the subpoena in court, but last month U.S. District Judge James Carter ruled against him, ordering that he review the emails and list any privilege claims. Members of the committee are concerned that Eastman is dragging his heels about this, though, for instance by writing vague labels for the emails he refuses to hand over, like “legal arguments” and “proposal to consider.” This makes it more difficult for the committee to challenge Eastman’s claims, as does the sheer number of emails he has withheld.
“The Select Committee’s urgent need for resolution of the privilege issues is heightened by the fact that Plaintiff has broadly claimed privileges over a vast swath of documents—many of which appear to be critical to the Select Committee’s investigation,” House Counsel Doug Letter wrote in a court filing Friday, according to Politico.
The committee is looking into Eastman’s relationship with Trump around the time he sought to prevent the certification of the 2020 election results. Eastman penned a memo instructing then-Vice President Mike Pence to toss out “invalid” electoral votes from seven states. He also reportedly participated in a Jan. 5 meeting in Washington, D.C., during which he plotted with Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, and others about how to throw a wrench into the election certification process the next day, the committee notes. All three figures have been subpoenaed.
Eastman’s lawyer argue that his client isn’t being unreasonable with his attorney-client privilege claims, and that the Jan. 6 committee is just trying to get its work done before the November midterms. “To the extent the congressional defendants’ claimed ‘urgent need for resolution of the privilege issues’ is motivated by the looming 2022 midterm election, this is not a valid reason to alter this Court’s January 26 order,” Eastman’s attorney wrote, per Politico.
In December, Eastman had complained about “the lack of a ranking minority member” on the Jan. 6 committee. He also, in stating his intention to plead the Fifth Amendment, griped that the committee was taking testimony in “secret proceedings.”
Last month, Judge Carter ordered Eastman to review 1,500 pages a day and to keep a daily log. CNN reported that Eastman pleaded the Fifth to nearly 150 of the panel’s questions. Eastman and House investigators will meet in court on Monday to update Carter on the process.