The US Department of Justice Wednesday sued former Trump aide Peter Navarro for allegedly withholding emails from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Navarro is being sued under the Presidential Records Act (PRA). The act requires that all records from the President or his high-level staff relating to “constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President” be turned over to the National Archives after a President leaves office.
According to the suit, Navarro, during his tenure with the White House, used an email account hosted by ProtonMail to communicate instead of his official email account. The use of the unofficial account is legal. However, Navarro was required to copy his official email on all ProtonMail emails in order to create a secondary official record for the archive.
According to the lawsuit, the White House Counsel’s office informed Navarro in both 2017 and 2019 that he should be copying his official email on all official correspondence done with outside email servers. The suit goes on to claim that the National Archives was informed of the potential hidden correspondence by the work of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which obtained some of these emails. The archivist then requested the emails from Navarro, whose lawyers allegedly found between 200 and 250 emails that are PRA records.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that Navarro refused to turn these records over without a promise of immunity, saying “By letter dated July 29, 2022, Mr. Navarro’s counsel refused to produce any PRA records to NARA in Mr. Navarro’s possession, custody, or control absent a grant of immunity for the act of returning such records.”
In a statement, Navarro’s legal counsel refuted the claims in the suit, stating:
Mr. Navarro 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 is also currently under indictment for contempt of Congress for his “failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the United States Capitol.”