Peter Navarro: ex-Trump adviser convicted of contempt of Congress
Former Trump aide Peter Navarro has been convicted of contempt of Congress after he refused to cooperate with an investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. Prosecutors accused Navarro of disregarding a congressional subpoena and acting “in violation of the law.” He now faces the possibility of serving up to a year in prison for each of the two contempt charges.
Steve Bannon, another prominent Trump ally, had previously been convicted of contempt of Congress in the prior year.
Standing outside the Washington DC court on Thursday, Navarro expressed his disappointment, labeling it a “sad day for America.”
He vowed to appeal his case all the way to the Supreme Court, emphasizing that it was unprecedented for a senior White House adviser, who is seen as a close associate of the president, to face such charges.
Navarro argued that the Department of Justice had maintained a policy for over five decades stating that senior White House advisers could not be compelled to testify before Congress, yet they pursued the case against him.
Following a two-day trial, a 12-member jury found Navarro guilty after deliberating for four hours. In addition to his appeal, Navarro’s legal team is seeking a mistrial, alleging that jurors left the courtroom during deliberations and encountered protesters.
Navarro, who served as a senior trade adviser to former President Donald Trump, was served with a subpoena by a select committee of the US House of Representatives in February 2022. However, he failed to provide the requested emails or documents and did not appear to testify before the Democratic-led panel.
The committee had hoped to question Navarro about efforts to delay certification of the 2020 election, according to a former staff director for the panel who testified in court.
Navarro was indicted in June 2022 and arrested by FBI agents at a Washington airport as he was boarding a flight to Nashville, Tennessee.
During their closing arguments, prosecutors said Navarro chose his allegiance to Mr. Trump over complying with the subpoena.
“That is contempt. That is a crime,” prosecutor Elizabeth Aloi told the court.
Navarro’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, presented little evidence during the trial and instead sought to discredit the prosecutor’s case.
When contacted by the committee, Navarro said Mr. Trump had instructed him to cite executive privilege.
This is a legal principle that allows certain White House communications to be kept under wraps.
But last week, Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama nominee, ruled there was no evidence that Mr. Trump or executive privilege could have permitted Navarro to ignore the committee’s summons.
In his 2021 book, In Trump Time, Navarro said he was the architect of a strategy to challenge the election results, claiming widespread voter fraud.
The plan was for congressional Republicans to delay the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Navarro called this strategy the Green Bay Sweep, a reference to a tactic in American football,
The House committee said Navarro’s claims of massive ballot fraud had been exposed as baseless by state and local officials.
In addition to a maximum sentence of a year in prison for each count, Navarro also faces fines of up to $100,000 (£80,000).
His sentencing is scheduled for January.
Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign adviser, told the BBC the prosecution seemed politically motivated.
“It is not uncommon for Congress to hold former or serving members of presidential administrations in contempt,” he said.
“It is uncommon for the actual justice department to go forward with these prosecutions.”
He cited the example of the former US Attorney General Eric Holder, under Democratic President Barack Obama, who was found in contempt of a Republican-controlled Congress in 2012 for refusing to hand over subpoenaed documents but was not criminally prosecuted.
“We’re going down a dangerous route by escalating these things,” said Mr Lanza.
“That’s not good for our system of government,” he added.
Former Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon was convicted of two counts of contempt for defying the House committee’s legal summons in July 2022.
Bannon was sentenced to four months in jail but has remained free while his defense team appeals the conviction.