Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro must turn over emails sent from his personal email account while working for the Trump administration to the National Archives, a federal judge has ruled. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling that Navarro’s messages fall under the Presidential Records Act, a law that applies to all government-related messages to and from executive branch employees. Navarro had argued that he had no statutory duty to turn over his emails because they came from his personal account.
The ruling is a setback for Navarro, who is also facing trial for contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas from the special House committee that investigated the January 6 US Capitol riot and former president Donald Trump’s role in fomenting doubt about the 2020 presidential election results. Navarro, who is no longer working in the Trump administration, prepared a report in his final weeks in the White House based on discredited claims of election fraud and worked with Trump ally Steve Bannon and Republican lawmakers to strategise ways to object to the results of the election.
Navarro’s attorneys argued that they did not want to turn over the emails because they might be used against him in his criminal trial. But Kollar-Kotelly disagreed, finding that the emails could be assessed as potential presidential records if they arose out of his employment in the administration. She ordered Navarro to turn over “forthwith” about 200 to 250 messages that his lawyers have already deemed likely presidential records, while allowing the two sides 30 days to sort out a protocol to find other official records in Navarro’s personal account.
Navarro joins other Trump administration officials in resisting the release of private emails related to government business. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ivanka Trump both received criticism for using their personal accounts for official business.