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Appeals court denies Peter Navarro's effort to keep hundreds of emails

Navarro appealed a federal judge’s order last month to provide the federal government with emails from his personal email accounts during his time in the Trump administration.
Appeals court denies Peter Navarro's effort to block order to turn over hundreds of emails
Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro outside federal court in Washington on Aug. 31, 2022. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP file

A federal appeals court has denied former Trump aide Peter Navarro's effort to block an order requiring him to hand the government 200 to 250 emails that he sent using a private email account during his time in the Trump administration.

In a unanimous two-page order on Wednesday, the three-judge panel wrote that Navarro has “not shown that he is entitled to a stay” after he appealed a federal judge’s mandate that he return the emails to the National Archives.

“There is no public interest in Navarro’s retention of the records, and Congress has recognized that the public has an interest in the Nation’s possession and retention of Presidential records,” the appeals panel concluded.

The Department of Justice sued Navarro last year to compel him to hand over the emails following his refusal to comply without first being granted immunity. Lawyers for Navarro at the time alleged the DOJ 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 Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected the argument by Navarro’s lawyers and ordered him last month “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.”

Navarro appealed the order and asked the court to stay Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling while the appeal was pending.

Following the appeals court ruling, Kollar-Kotelly ordered Navarro to turn over the 200-250 presidential records that he identified is in his possession on or before Friday. Additionally, she ordered Navarro to complete additional searches for presidential records on or before May 8, with other hearings scheduled later next month.

Navarro’s lawyers declined NBC News’ request for comment on Thursday.

In its lawsuit against Navarro, the DOJ noted that the National Archives became aware in December 2021 that he used a personal account with ProtonMail, an encrypted email service, to send and receive official emails while serving as an adviser to then-President Donald Trump. Navarro violated the Presidential Records Act by failing to copy his official White House account on the email exchanges or forward the email chains to his White House account, the DOJ alleged.

When the National Archives asked Navarro to turn over the records, he did not respond, the DOJ said in their complaint.

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. However, a judge ruled in January to delay the trial for months. Navarro has pleaded not guilty to the charges.