We can find a high-level overview of the documents in the response from the National Archives to the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley, sent on August 2, 2018.
This letter was a response to the official request (full text) from the Committee sent on July 27. It contains an estimate of the processing time needed and the general overview of the documents. The letter is published on the National Archives website (full letter, article)
Your letter requests three categories of records:
- Emails sent to or received from Kavanaugh, including emails on which he was a carbon copy or blind carbon copy recipient, during the period Kavanaugh served as Associate Counsel and Senior Associate Counsel to the President, including any documents attached to such emails;
- The textual records contained in Kavanaugh's office files from the period during which he served as Associate Counsel and Senior Associate Counsel to the President; and
- Documents relating to Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
NARA estimates that the first category includes roughly 170,000 emails. Because we estimate that email records in this collection (which frequently include attachments) average approximately five pages per email, there could be as many as 850,000 pages of email records. (The emails may also include personal and other non-PRA record, and duplicate materials; in addition, this volume does not include emails in which Kavanaugh is only mentioned). NARA estimates that the second category includes roughly 60,000 pages, and the third category includes a little over 3,800 pages.
Now, we can answer your questions:
What kind of documents are these?
~850,000 pages of emails, ~60,000 pages of textual records and ~3,800 pages of documents from Kavanaugh's earlier nomination. (~913,800 pages total)
According to my understanding, these documents were later processed by the President Bush's legal representative. Figures from his letter match roughly:
We received a total of 276,695 distinct documents consisting of 937,176 pages from NARA. NARA informed us that these documents included a full set of emails sent by and to Judge Kavanaugh (including cc’s and bcc’s) while he was in the White House Counsel’s Office and his hard copy records from the same period.1
Some of these documents were exact duplicates. After excluding them, the number of documents fell to ~600,000 pages.
Thus, after excluding exact duplicates, the number of documents we received from NARA fell from 276,695 distinct documents (937,176 pages) to 179,771 distinct documents (663,817 pages).
Some of them were withheld as also explained in the letter.
What is the contents of these sort of documents, and who are the authors? How are they connected to Brett Kavanaugh?
Most of these documents are emails, supposedly with attachments. Emails include CCs and BCCs, so, every email that was sent or received by Kavanaugh is included.
Why are there such a staggeringly large number of them?
It's really hard to say without seeing them. I'm not familiar with White House email etiquette, so I can't really say why there're so many of them and why they're so long. It's possible to speculate that the documents include duplicated chains of emails, which leads to the exponential increase in size, but that's only a speculation.
All of the documents are from Kavanaugh's service in the White House under President George W. Bush, first as Associate Counsel from 2001 to 2003 and later as Senior Associate Counsel in 2003. So, it's 170,000 emails in two years or 232 emails per day (assuming 365 days a year).