Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro speaks to the media as he departs federal court, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
After just a daylong jury trial in Washington, D.C., Peter Navarro, the former trade adviser to the now quadruply-indicted former President Donald Trump, was found guilty of contempt of Congress for his failure to comply with a subpoena issued to him by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Deliberations took just four hours, the New York Times reported.
During his opening statements on Wednesday, prosecutor John Crabb said the case was a simple one: Navarro, who had pertinent information for the select committee about what happened in the White House on Jan. 6, didn’t provide documents as asked and he didn’t testify when requested to do so under a subpoena. Navarro was indicted both for failure to provide the records and failure to testify.
The maximum sentence for these respective offenses is one year in prison. The minimum is 30 days per count. The maximum fine for both counts is $100,000. Navarro pleaded not guilty to both counts but he was convicted on each on Thursday. His sentencing hearing is slated for January 2024.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta presided over the matter.
Navarro was indicted last June. He has insisted that he wasn’t being contemptuous of the select committee or Congress when subpoenaed in February 2022 but rather, before trial, he claimed he couldn’t be responsive to their requests because Trump had invoked executive privilege over him and his testimony. Navarro told the committee “my hands are tied” in one email last year and suggested they contact Trump directly.
Before going to trial, Navarro’s defense attorney Stanley Woodward unsuccessfully argued this point to Mehta, who determined that there was never a formal invocation of executive privilege by the former president over Navarro. To wit, even Trump never supplied Navarro or the court with any evidence that he claimed executive privilege over him.
Woodward has argued the committee never really tried to contact Trump and therefore Navarro’s failure to comply was not “willful.” But Navarro did not dispute, on a factual basis, that he didn’t produce records or sit for testimony.
Strangely, when presented a chance to make its case after the prosecution’s arguments and showing of just three witnesses, Navarro’s team declined. The defense opted instead to rest and sent the matter to a jury in short order. The Hill reported that the defense at least managed to see two objections sustained when prosecutors questioned a witness for the government, Mark Harris, about how the select committee’s report would have been different if Navarro complied.
Harris served as a senior investigative counsel to the committee. Only he and two other witnesses — also fellow committee aides — testified: David Buckley, a former staff director to the select committee, and Daniel George, another senior investigative counsel.
The defense did not call any witnesses or present any evidence.
Navarro, apparently anticipating the conviction, told NBC on Wednesday he plans to appeal and hopes to see the case go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A day earlier, he told the outlet this was because “this case is not really about me. It’s about the separation of powers and executive privilege.”
But at trial, prosecutors emphasized that the case was really about Navarro’s belief that he was “above the law.”
“Our system does not work if people believe they are above the law,” Crabb said during opening statements according to ABC. “Congress legitimately asked for information.”
Even if he wanted to cite executive privilege, Crabb explained, he would still need to do so on a question-by-question basis and he would have to do it in person. The committee told him that explicitly, the prosecutors said.
Trump strategist Steve Bannon was found guilty of contempt of Congress for his failure to comply with a subpoena from the select committee after a four day long trial last July. It took a jury just three hours to deliberate. Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison. He appealed his conviction in May, arguing it was a violation of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. Bannon maintained that Trump did invoke executive privilege to bar his testimony from the Jan. 6 committee and that he was prohibited from sharing his records with the committee because they were confidential.
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