Peter Navarro says Trump told him to assert privilege during Jan. 6 committee investigation

14:30 30.08.2023

Former Trump White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, will be barred from using executive privilege as a defense in his trial for criminal contempt of Congress, ruled federal Judge Amit Mehta on Wednesday. Navarro had refused to respond to a congressional subpoena from the House select committee that investigated the January 6th, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. During a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Mehta stated that there was no evidence that former President Donald Trump had formally invoked executive privilege to protect Navarro from testifying before Congress. As a result, Navarro will not be allowed to argue that Trump's assertion of privilege influenced his decision not to comply with the subpoena.

Navarro had claimed that Trump made it "very clear" to him that he should invoke certain privileges and not respond to the committee's subpoena. He testified that he had a phone call with Trump on February 20th, 2022, where it was clear that privilege was invoked. Additionally, Navarro stated that during a meeting with Trump on April 5th, 2022, it was evident from the beginning that privilege had been invoked. Navarro referred to Trump as his boss and described the conversation as one in which Trump did most of the talking.

The House select committee had initially subpoenaed Navarro in February 2022 as part of its investigation into attempts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. After Navarro refused to comply with the requests, he was indicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress. He pleaded not guilty to both counts, each carrying a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

During an evidentiary hearing on Monday, Navarro's legal team argued that he should be allowed to invoke Trump's instructions not to comply with the subpoena as a defense in his trial for contempt of Congress. Prosecutors, however, contended that Navarro had not provided any actual evidence of Trump invoking executive privilege or testimonial immunity to justify his refusal to testify before Congress.

Judge Mehta had previously ruled that Navarro could establish the factual basis for the invocation of executive privilege or testimonial immunity through his own testimony or other evidence. However, during Monday's hearing, Mehta questioned the existence of any documented evidence supporting Navarro's claim that Trump directed the invocation of these privileges.

Navarro's defense attorney, Stanley Woodward, acknowledged the lack of physical documentation but argued that Navarro's belief in being formally restricted from speaking to Congress should not be invalidated due to the "unconventional approach" of the Trump administration. Woodward emphasized that Navarro did not directly email Trump but communicated through his aides because Trump was "not a text guy."

The Justice Department argued that there was no proof that Trump even saw the January 6th subpoena, let alone evidence supporting the claim that he shielded Navarro from testifying. They also highlighted the fact that granting executive privilege to all senior advisers who were subpoenaed by the House select committee would have been inconceivable for Trump.

In a separate hearing, federal prosecutors revealed that Trump's legal team had engaged in sealed court battles over assertions of executive privilege to prevent several grand jury witnesses from testifying in the special counsel's probe. However, these attempts proved unsuccessful.

Navarro is the second Trump ally to face prosecution for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the former House select committee. Steve Bannon was convicted last year on two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to provide requested documents and testimony. His sentencing hearing has been postponed as he appeals the guilty verdict. Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino, two other Trump aides, were referred to the Justice Department for contempt charges but were not ultimately charged.

Navarro's trial for criminal contempt of Congress is scheduled to begin on September 5th, with the parties estimating that the proceedings will only take a few days to complete. Judge Mehta will rule on whether Navarro can use the privilege and immunity defenses in the coming days.

/ Wednesday, August 30, 2023, 2:30 PM /

themes:  Donald Trump

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