WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice is suing former Trump White House aide Peter Navarro in an effort to compel him to produce emails from a personal account that he allegedly used to conduct official White House business.
In the complaint, filed Wednesday, the department has asked a judge to order Navarro to turn over the records.
Navarro, a top trade adviser in the Trump administration, has refused to hand over the documents without first getting a "grant of immunity for the act of returning such records," according to the complaint.
Last December, the National Archives and Records Administration 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 complaint said. 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, it said.
The National Archives reached out to Navarro asking him to turn over the missing records, but he never responded, according to the complaint.
In response to the department’s suit, Navarro lawyers 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 instructed his lawyers to preserve all such records, and he expects the government to follow standard processes in good faith to allow him to produce records. Instead, the government chose to file its lawsuit today,” they wrote.
Separately, Navarro has been ordered to stand trial in November 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 in part to promote a new book. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In a letter attached to the DOJ filing, Irving, expressed "concern about coordination between various government investigations and the protection of Mr. Navarro’s constitutional rights."
"Put simply, we are concerned that the government is using the Presidential Records Act as a discovery tool, not only with respect to Mr. Navarro’s ongoing criminal case, but with respect to broader investigations being conducted by both Congress and the executive branch," Irving wrote in the July 29 letter.
"While we acknowledge Mr. Navarro’s obligations under the Presidential Records Act we also must acknowledge the conflict as between the act and his rights under the Constitution, including the Fifth Amendment," he added.