WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has sued former Trump White House aide Peter Navarro in an effort to force him to produce emails from a personal account he allegedly used to conduct official White House business.
In the complaint, filed Wednesday, the department asked a judge to order Navarro to turn over the records.
Navarro, a top trade adviser in the Trump administration, refused to turn over the documents without first receiving “a grant of immunity for the act of returning such records,” according to the complaint.
Last December, the National Archives and Records Administration was informed that Navarro had used a personal account with ProtonMail, an encrypted email service, to send and receive official emails while serving as a presidential adviser, the complaint said. Navarro did not copy his official White House account in the email exchanges, nor did he forward the email chains to his White House account, which is a violation of the Presidential Records Act, it said.
The National Archives contacted Navarro asking him to turn over the missing records, but he never responded, according to the complaint.
In response to the department’s lawsuit, Navarro’s attorneys, John Irving and John Rowley, said in a statement Wednesday that their client “has never refused to provide records to the government.”
“As detailed in our recent letter to the Archives, Mr. Navarro has instructed his attorneys to preserve all of these records and expects the government to follow formal good faith procedures to allow him to produce records. Instead, the government chose to file its lawsuit today,” they wrote.
Separately, Navarro was ordered to stand trial in November for criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 panel after a judge denied his attempt to partially delay the process to promote a new book. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In a letter attached to the DOJ filing, Irving expressed his “concern about the coordination between the various government investigations and the protection of Mr. Navarro’s constitutional rights.”
“Simply put, we are concerned that the administration is using the Presidential Records Act as a discovery tool, not only in connection with Mr. Navarro’s ongoing criminal case, but in connection with broader investigations being conducted by both Congress and the executive power”. Irving wrote in the July 29 letter.
“While we recognize Mr. Navarro’s obligations under the Presidential Records Act, we must also recognize the conflict between the law and his rights under the Constitution, including the Fifth Amendment,” he added.