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Former Trump aide ordered to turn over White House emails

The Justice Department is seeking emails from a personal encrypted account.

(CN) — A federal judge was scathing of a onetime trade adviser to former President Donald Trump in a ruling Tuesday that clears the way for the government to access up to 250 of Peter Navarro's encrypted personal emails.

The dispute over Navarro's encrypted Proton Mail account spurred a lawsuit in Washington from the Justice Department this past August. Court filings reveal that negotiations between investigators and Navarro's legal team to avoid litigation broke down over Navarro's insistence on “a grant of immunity for the act of returning such documents.”

Navarro has said the government's interest in his emails tramples his right against self-incrimination, pointing to the contempt of Congress charge that he faces for defying a subpoena by House lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Partly because Navarro did not explain how the emails would be incriminating, however, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled earlier this month in favor of the Justice Department. Her latest ruling denies Navarro a stay pending appeal.

“Navarro is apparently the first to steadfastly refuse to comply with the Act’s requirements and, in excuse, assert a series of meritless arguments to evade his statutory responsibilities,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote. “At its heart, Dr. Navarro’s motion is little more than a rehashing of the same arguments the Court has previously rejected on the merits.”

The ruling underlines that Navarro is flouting a requirement of the Presidential Records Act that says employees using private email accounts must turn over any documents related to their employment within 20 days of their creation.

“Like the many thousands of Executive Branch employees before him in the 45 years since the PRA was enacted, he was subject to its clear document retention, preservation, and provision requirements,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

The judge said the case is no different than an employee taking property from their former employer and that employer suing to get it back.

“Restating the arguments again does not imbue them with any more merit, any more substance, or any more of a likelihood he will succeed on the merits in an appeal,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

It’s the latest in a slew of recent legal developments for the previous administration as Trump faces criminal investigations in Washington, New York and Georgia over business dealings, efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents.

Navarro was the third Trump administration official to be referred for criminal charges after former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump ally Steve Bannon.

The committee says both Navarro and Dan Scavino, a former communications aide, defied its called testimony and documents to aid in the investigation by the House select committee.

The subpoena of Navarro early last year cited his vocal support of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in swing states won by now-President Joe Biden and to delay Congress' certification of the election.

Navarro had claimed that he is exempt from testifying due to Trump’s assertions of executive privilege, a protection that exempts some information from public disclosure to allow the president to openly consult members of his staff.

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