Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro was indicted Friday on contempt charges after defying a subpoena from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Navarro is the second former Trump aide to be charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to co-operate with the investigation. Former White House adviser Steve Bannon was indicted in November. The case against him is pending.
Navarro, 72, was charged with one contempt count for failing to appear for a deposition before the House committee. The second charge is for failing to produce documents the committee requested. Navarro is expected to appear in court in Washington later Friday.
The indictment alleges that Navarro, despite being summoned to appear before the committee for a deposition, refused to do so and instead told the panel that because former president Donald Trump had invoked executive privilege, “my hands are tied.”
Even after committee staff told him that it believed there were topics he could discuss without raising any executive privilege concerns, Navarro again refused, directing the committee to negotiate directly with lawyers for Trump, according to the indictment. The committee went ahead with its scheduled deposition on March 2, but Navarro did not attend.
The indictment comes days after Navarro, who was a trade adviser to Trump, revealed in a court filing that he had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury this week as part of the Justice Department’s sprawling probe into the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Members of the select committee sought testimony from Navarro about his public efforts to help Trump overturn the 2020 presidential election, including a call after the election persuading state legislators to join their efforts.
Prime time hearings begin next week
The former economics professor was one of the White House staffers who promoted Trump’s baseless claims of mass voter fraud and even released a report in December 2020 that he claimed contained evidence of the alleged misconduct.
Navarro has refused to co-operate with the committee, and he and fellow Trump adviser Dan Scavino were found in contempt of Congress in April.
The panel has interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses about the insurrection and is preparing for a series of televised hearings, some in prime time, to begin next week.
The panel — seven Democratic lawmakers, Republican Liz Cheney and former Republican Adam Kinziger, now an independent — hope to lay out, step-by-step, how Trump and his allies worked feverishly to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election, spreading lies about widespread voter fraud that fuelled a violent assault on the seat of democracy. Dozens of claims of election malfeasance were rejected by the courts, and the Trump administration’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency characterized the election in a statement as “the most secure in American history.”
The six hearings, set to begin June 9 at 8 p.m. ET and expected to last until late June, will be the first time the committee discloses “previously unseen material” about what it has discovered in the course of a sprawling 10-month investigation that has touched nearly every aspect of the insurrection.
Unlike any other congressional committee in recent times, the panel’s work has been both highly anticipated by Democrats and routinely criticized by Trump and the former president’s allies, including some Republicans in Congress, who complain it is partisan. Several Republican members of the House, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have so far refused to appear voluntarily.
The investigation has focused on every aspect of the insurrection, including the efforts by Trump and his allies to cast doubt on the election and halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory; the financing and organizing of rallies in Washington that took place before the attack; security failures by Capitol Police and federal agencies; and the actions of the rioters themselves.
The committee plans to release subsequent reports on its findings, including recommendations on legislative reforms, ahead of the midterm elections.
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Georgia probe hears from Trump call recipient
Meanwhile, a special grand jury in Georgia is hearing from witnesses about efforts to pressure state officials to reverse a win for Biden in that state.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger appeared before the panel on Thursday, according to a subpoena obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request. He was also seen at the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta on Thursday.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said her investigation includes looking into a January 2021 phone call in which Trump pushed Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed for him to win Georgia.
The panel has subpoena power, but not the power to indict, a decision that would fall on Willis and her team.
It’s not clear exactly what charges Willis could choose to pursue against Trump or anyone else. In a letter she sent to top-ranking state officials last year, she said she was looking into possible solicitation of election fraud, false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy and racketeering.