Peter Navarro, Trump’s former trade adviser and a key Big Lie booster, has been harboring hundreds of government records that he’s appealing in federal court to keep. The Justice Department sued him over the records last August. Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled against Navarro. But Navarro isn’t giving up.
Last week, Navarro said he intended to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and asked District Judge Kollar-Kotelly to stay her ruling while he appealed. On Saturday, DOJ lawyers filed a motion pushing back on his efforts to hold onto the documents after months of courtroom bickering.
“Dr. Navarro, as this Court found, has no possessory right to the records; he does not own the records; and he was statutorily obligated to have incorporated them into the White House records system within twenty days of creation, which he concededly did not do,” the DOJ wrote. “Defendant cannot be irreparably harmed by producing documents he has no right to possess in the first place.”
The prosecutors urged the judge to deny his motion for appeal, and facilitate Navarro immediately handing over the documents.
“Accordingly, the Court should deny the motion for a stay pending appeal, and supervise the immediate return of the records already ordered to be produced,” the DOJ wrote.
Last summer, Navarro’s legal team told the Justice Department that he was in possession of about hundreds of emails on a ProtonMail account from his time in the White House. But he’s refused to turn them over to the government, unless the DOJ offers him a “grant of immunity” in exchange.
The Presidential Records Act (PRA) dictates that federal employees are supposed to turn any records pertaining to the president, vice president or other covered employees into the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) within twenty days of the record’s creation. The Justice Department invoked this statute when they filed a civil suit against Navarro last August.
“Mr. Navarro is wrongfully retaining Presidential records that are the property of the United States, and which constitute part of the permanent historical records of the prior administration,” the complaint read. Navarro had allegedly ignored several emails from NARA requesting the emails.
Navarro has since tried to get the case dismissed on the grounds that, among other things, there is no explicit mechanism in the PRA obligating him to turn over the records. He also argued that “production of such records could potentially incriminate him in future criminal actions.”
This case is separate from his ongoing contempt of Congress case for stonewalling the Jan. 6 committee. A federal judge rejected his efforts to get that case dismissed earlier this year, and it is heading for trial later in 2023.
And now, the Justice Department is pressing for the “immediate return” of the emails to NARA.
“Currently, the records in Defendant’s possession are missing from the collection of presidential records to which special access requesters are now entitled,” the prosecutors wrote. “That alone is contrary to the public interest.”
Read the full filing below: