Court orders Eastman to cough up records on Jan. 6

Court orders Eastman to cough up records on Jan. 6
John C. Eastman, image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Jan. 6 Committee is pushing hard and fast for records belonging to John Eastman, the ex-adviser to Donald Trump who once authored legal memos outlining a scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election following the 45th president’s defeat by Joe Biden.

Insurrection investigators only recently secured an order from a federal judge in California that forced Eastman to produce no less than 1,500 pages of records per day—all of which are sourced from a 19,000-page tranche obtained by a committee subpoena sent to Eastman’s ex-employer, Chapman University.

First reported by Politico Monday night, during a federal court hearing with Judge David Carter, it was House of Representatives general counsel Douglas Letter who urged the judge to hasten Eastman’s production.

The original subpoena to Chapman University from the Jan. 6 Committee cast an extensive net with a request for records created from Nov. 3, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021.

But even with Judge Carter’s order of 1,500 pages per day reviewed—including a daily log itemizing any documents Eastman wishes to assert privilege over—Letter stressed it would simply take too long for the Trump ally to get materials of the most critical interest to the committee.

At 1,500 pages per day, it could take roughly 13 weeks for Eastman to complete production if he were to start all the way back on Nov. 3, 2020.

“That’s useless… it completely defeats the subpoena,” Letter said during Monday’s videoconference court hearing.

Though the Los-Angeles based judge noted to the House general counsel that his previous order to Eastman did not lay out instructions for how to prioritize the records, he agreed to expedite the review process anyway, narrowing the scope of Eastman’s records production to just those documents dated from Jan. 4 to Jan. 7, 2021.

“Although Dr. Eastman objected to this request, he has failed to point to any prejudice to him that would result from reviewing the documents in this order. The Select Committee’s request is reasonable in light of the unexpectedly large volume of documents produced and the critical relevance of the time period to the investigation,’ Judge Carter wrote Monday.

He also offered a warning for the Jan. 6 committee: “The court is not inclined to look favorably on further requests for reviewing specific dates out of order.”

Eastman is expected to produce progress reports each Monday until the review is complete. Those reports must include the number of pages he has reviewed and the number of documents he is sending to the select committee as well as the number of documents he wants to assert privilege over.

Though the order narrows the production to just three days in January, because Chapman University agreed to turn over all of the documents when first subpoenaed, the panel can review materials from an earlier point at a later time.

If they even need them, that is.

The committee has so far conducted over 400 interviews and has made major gains amassing evidence that will eventually culminate into public hearings, a final report and if criminal conduct is discovered, possible indictments from the appropriate enforcers.

The panel has already obtained 770 pages of Trump’s presidential records from the National Archives after he tried to keep them hidden for months but failed. Those records include call logs, diaries, draft speeches, visitor logs, digital correspondence, and much more.

One of the most important pieces to emerge from that victory was a draft executive order that revealed the administration’s plan to order the seizure of voting machines and election equipment as well as appoint a special counsel to investigate claims of voter fraud all while Trump remained in power beyond Jan. 20.

The probe has received cooperation from several dozen witnesses it has called forward, too. That cooperation has featured the significant production of some 9,000 pages of records from Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows before he abruptly ended his compliance last year.

Full or not, his cooperation nonetheless helped unearth text messages that were sent to Meadows during the attack.

The messages showed, among other things, the desperate pleas that flowed into the White House like so much water on Jan. 6 from Trump’s family, White House aides, and even news personalities who wanted him to quell the violence exploding mere blocks away from the White House.

Meadows, like Steve Bannon before him, was referred to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress after ending his cooperation with the committee abruptly last year.

While Bannon has already been indicted by the DOJ for his refusal to cooperate and now awaits trial this summer, Attorney General Merrick Garland has yet to issue a decision on Meadows.

Other records obtained have cast light on the intimate role certain sitting lawmakers had in pushing Trump’s conspiracies about the 2020 election with White House officials.

One such record was a text from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to Meadows that advocated for then-Vice President Mike Pence to “call out all electoral votes he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.”

Pence did not have that power.

Investigators did not officially subpoena Jordan but asked him to comply voluntarily with the probe. He has so far refused and the committee is still weighing how to legally navigate a subpoena to a fellow sitting lawmaker. It issued similar requests to Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy.

While Trump often aired his frustrations with Pence in the open—including when he tweeted at him during the attack and suggested the assault would not have happened if Pence had the “courage” to stop the certification—the committee’s work in obtaining the Jordan text was vital. It served as a strong example of how far-reaching the internal pressure campaign on Pence had become.

Additionally, cooperation from other witnesses like Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg, has corroborated public reporting about what unfolded in the White House during the breach.

Kellogg, for instance, recently told investigators it was Ivanka Trump who regularly witnessed her father’s demeanor during the attack. She was the only person who officials, including Kellogg, believed could get Trump to act.

The committee has also secured interviews from individuals like Alex Jones and Ali Alexander, just two of the many right-wing extremists that so often orbited the administration and regularly promoted misinformation about the 2020 election results.

Alexander was responsible for organizing the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement and told investigators during his own closed-door deposition that he communicated with a variety of House Republicans before the insurrection including Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama and Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona.

And though Alex Jones has invoked his Fifth Amendment right when meeting with the committee for deposition, he has kept a pathway open for investigators to come calling again by sharing his “unofficial testimony” with listeners of his podcast.

All of this in combination with Letter’s narrowed and expedited review request could indicate that the committee may not be so deeply reliant on Eastman’s complete email records during his time at Chapman University because it has what it needs elsewhere.

Eastman, after all, met with Meadows and Pence on Jan. 4 in the White House.

A spokesperson for the committee would not comment Tuesday on any materials it has received.

Eastman’s next day in court is Feb. 14.

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