DOJ asks judge to order former Trump adviser Navarro to return private emails from White House

Navarro "has never refused to provide records to the government," his attorneys said last month.

Updated: September 27, 2022 - 12:10pm

The Justice Department is asked a federal judge to order former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro to return private emails he sent during his time in the administration, arguing he has violated a record-keeping law by refusing to do so. 

The motion filed by the DOJ on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., states Navarro was subject to the Presidential Records Act while working as a senior White House adviser from January 2017 until January 2021, The Epoch Times reported

Under the the federal law, presidential records are federal government property. After a president leaves office, "[t]he United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records," the act states. Emails sent and received on nonofficial accounts are also included. 

Navarro allegedly used "at least one non-official email account" to send and receive messages while working in the White House, according to the department. However, he didn’t copy those emails and messages to his government email account within the 20-day requirement of the law, the department alleged. 

The emails were in regards to needing ventilators, creating and using National-Guard-based rapid response teams and using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. 

"There is no genuine dispute of fact that Dr. Navarro used at least one unofficial email account to conduct official business, that those records are the property of the United States, and that Dr. Navarro has refused to return the records to the United States," the DOJ wrote. "Indeed, his counsel has expressly admitted as much."

The National Archive Records Administration was made aware that it didn't possess the emails after an investigation by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. 

Navarro was contacted by NARA in December 2021, which asked him to hand over the records, according to the department. The department sent its own letter to Navarro in June 2022. 

NARA also gave Navarro's lawyers a list of search terms, which led to them finding as many as 1,700 emails that fit the description. The attorneys later estimated that between 200 and 250 of the documents were PRA records. 

In August, the DOJ initially sued Navarro for allegedly violating the PRA. Then, Navarro's lawyers said that he "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," Navarro's attorneys told The Hill newspaper.

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