WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Thursday ordered former Donald Trump aide Peter Navarro to hand the National Archives 200 to 250 emails that he sent during his time in the Trump administration using a private email account instead of his White House email.
In August 2022, the Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against Navarro to compel him to hand over the emails after he refused to do so without first being granted immunity. Lawyers for Navarro alleged the Justice Department was using the Presidential Records Act, which requires that official White House records be preserved, as a way to gather evidence against him in his ongoing criminal contempt of Congress case. They argued that forcing Navarro to produce the emails could violate his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in Thursday’s ruling that Navarro was asked "to return to the United States emails from his personal email account that constitute presidential records and which were in all instances prepared during his tenure at the White House from 2017 to 2021. Producing these pre-existing records in no way implicates a compelled testimonial communication that is incriminating.”
Kollar-Kotelly, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, wrote that the Presidential Records Act "makes plain that presidential advisors such as Dr. Navarro are part and parcel of the statutory scheme in that they are required to preserve presidential records during their tenure so that they can be transferred to [the National Archives] at the end of an administration."
NBC News has reached out to Navarro's lawyers for comment.
In December 2021, the National Archives became aware that Navarro had used a personal account with ProtonMail, an encrypted email service, to send and receive official emails while serving as an adviser to the president, the Justice Department said in its lawsuit. Navarro did not copy his official White House account on the email exchanges, nor did he forward the email chains to his White House account, a violation of the Presidential Records Act, the department said.
The National Archives had reached out to Navarro to ask that he turn over the records, but he did not respond, the Justice Department's complaint said.
Separately, Navarro has been ordered to stand trial on criminal contempt of Congress charges for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee after a judge denied his bid to delay the proceedings so he could promote his new book. A judge, however, moved in January to delay the trial for months. Navarro has pleaded not guilty to the charges.