Judge threatens ex-Trump aide Navarro with contempt in records fight

by KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN at politico.com

A federal judge threatened Tuesday to hold former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro in contempt of court for defying her order to return dozens — and perhaps hundreds — of presidential records to the National Archives.

“It is clear that Defendant continues to possess Presidential records that have not been produced to their rightful owner, the United States,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a six-page opinion after reviewing a subset of records Navarro had argued were his personal documents and did not need to be returned to the government.

Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, is giving Navarro until March 21 to review 600 records to determine whether additional government files are among them — or else face a potential contempt citation. She also said she plans to refer the matter to a magistrate judge to wade through the records and make sure the government gets those to which it is entitled.

It’s the latest legal headache for Navarro, who is slated to report to federal prison within weeks for a 2023 conviction for defying a subpoena from the congressional Jan. 6 select committee. A judge earlier this month rejected Navarro’s bid to remain free while he appeals his conviction on two misdemeanor contempt of Congress charges. That judge, Amit Mehta, sentenced Navarro to a four-month prison term in January.

But Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling also provided some ammunition to Navarro in his appeal — and potentially to his former boss, Donald Trump. The judge ruled that at least one of Navarro’s emails — a Jan. 13, 2021 reference to an installment in his three-part series of reports alleging fraud in the election — should have been classified as a “presidential record.”

“The DOJ came after me because I allegedly didn’t produce [to Congress] ‘clearly personal’ records regarding my work on the integrity of the 2020 election,” Navarro said in a statement. “Now, that same ‘government’ tells me that those emails are Presidential Records and seeks to hold me in contempt for withholding them as personal?”