Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has been ordered to turn over White House emails between him and former President Donald Trump that were sent with a personal email address, and that he and Trump claim fall under executive privilege.
U.S. District Appeals Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee, rejected those arguments after a lengthy battle and gave Navarro's team 30 days to turn the communications over to the court.
Kotar-Kelly determined that the emails came under the Presidential Records Act, which requires messages sent from a personal account that are work-related to be forwarded to an official account within 20 days.
“Dr. Navarro contends that he has no statutory duties under the PRA. … This position would defeat the entire purpose of the statute, i.e., to ensure that Presidential records, as defined, are collected, maintained and made available to the public,” she wrote.
Navarro had been ordered to turn over the emails by a lower court but had appealed the ruling. The Justice Department sued Navarro civilly in August to obtain the records.
The PRA provides that all official communications be transferred to the National Archives after a president's tenure.
Navarro tried to argue that the PRA only applies to emails he sent, not received, but that argument was rejected.
Navarro was involved in the efforts to overturn 2020 presidential election results based on fraud that was never proven, and is under subpoena to testify in another matter about conversations he had with Trump before and after January 6, 2021 when thousands of people breached the Capitol Building to protest the election results.
Navarro also argued that the court might use the emails against him in the criminal case, but that argument was also rejected.
This ruling resolves the issue before two other charges that Navarro defied that subpoena come to court.
It's entirely possible that they will be able to use the emails against Navarro in the criminal case, but if they are supposed to be public anyway and Navarro had followed those rules, the information would be available for the criminal case.
While we know that Trump is being unfairly investigated in many of these matters, and it stands to reason that his subordinates are as well, that doesn't mean a judge can give anyone special treatment or exempt them from following the laws.
The case is a defeat for Trump, who has exerted executive privilege numerous other times during investigations.
He should have known that everything he said and did would be public knowledge one day, and let that influence his words and actions rather than trying to hide them after the fact.