A jury began weighing contempt of Congress charges against Trump White House official Peter Navarro on Thursday over his failure to cooperate with a subpoena from the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Prosecutors argued that Navarro “chose allegiance to former President Donald Trump” over obeying a subpoena from the House panel investigating after a mob of the Republican's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and interrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential vote for Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Navarro, a former senior trade adviser, is charged with two counts of contempt of Congress. A defense attorney argued Navarro didn’t purposely ignore the House Jan. 6 Committee. Navarro instead told staffers to contact Trump about what might be protected by executive privilege, something that didn’t happen, defense attorney Stanley Woodward argued.
A judge has ruled the executive privilege argument isn’t a defense against the charges, finding Navarro couldn’t show that Trump had invoked it. But Woodward said prosecutors hadn't proven that Navarro acted “willfully” or only out of loyalty to Trump. “Do we know that his failure to comply beyond reasonable doubt wasn’t the result of accident, inadvertence or mistake?” he said.
Prosecutors, though, said Navarro should have handed over what material he could and flagged any questions or documents believed to be protected under executive privilege.
“Peter Navarro made a choice. He chose not abide by the congressional subpoena,” prosecutor Elizabeth Aloi said. “The defendant chose allegiance to former President Donald Trump over compliance to the subpoena.”
Navarro faces two charges, one for failing to produce documents and a second for failing to sit for a deposition. He faces up to a year behind bars on each count if convicted.
Navarro was the second Trump aide to face contempt of Congress charges after former White House adviser Steve Bannon. Bannon was convicted of two counts and was sentenced to four months behind bars, though he has been free pending appeal.
The House Jan. 6 committee finished its work in January, after a final report that said Trump criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 election and failed to act to stop a mob of his supporters from attacking the Capitol.
Trump now faces a federal indictment in Washington, D.C., and a state indictment in Georgia over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. He has denied wrongdoing and has said he was acting within the law.