The Justice Department announced Friday that former Trump White House official Peter Navarro has been charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the bipartisan House committee, Navarro revealed he received a grand jury subpoena as part of a related Justice Department probe.
According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Navarro, 72, is charged with one count of contempt for failing to appear for a deposition and another for failing to produce documents to the committee.
The charges against Navarro, the second former Trump adviser to face criminal charges in connection with refusing to appear or produce documents to the committee, are similar to those sought by the House and filed by US prosecutors in November against former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon, who also refused to appear or produce documents to the committee.
The indictment was returned on Thursday and unsealed on Friday, and Navarro is scheduled to appear in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia this afternoon.
On Feb. 9, the committee issued a subpoena to Navarro, seeking records and testimony from the former trade adviser, who has written and publicly discussed the effort to delay or overturn certification of the 2020 election.
The Select Committee stated in its subpoena that it had reason to believe Navarro possessed information relevant to its investigation. Navarro, who served as the President’s advisor on various trade and manufacturing policies, has been a private citizen since leaving the White House on January 20, 2021.
Prosecutors claimed that after receiving the subpoena, Navarro did not communicate with the committee at all. According to the indictment, the day after the Feb. 23 deadline for documents passed, Navarro emailed in response to a reminder from the committee, stating in part, “President Trump has invoked Executive Privilege in this matter…. Accordingly my hands are tied.”
When the committee stated that several topics did not raise executive privilege concerns, Navarro responded on February 28 that the privilege “is not mine to waive” and that the committee must directly negotiate the matter with Trump and his attorneys, according to prosecutors.
Navarro and Bannon were both indicted by a grand jury in Washington, a rare move by the Justice Department to escalate the consequences of a Congressional dispute by bringing criminal charges. Each of the two men faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison for each charge. Navarro will not be forced to speak because of the charges. Legal analysts believe Congress could sue to force that outcome, hoping that a judge would hold Navarro in civil contempt and imprison him until he cooperated.
The department has not yet acted on referrals from Congress for charges against former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and communications chief Daniel Scavino Jr.
Presidents have generally sought to shield current and former aides from having to testify before Congress, and the Justice Department has recently refused to bring criminal charges against current and former officials following congressional contempt findings. For example, in 2008, the department dismissed charges against President George W. Bush’s chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, who had resisted subpoenas regarding the controversial forced resignations of U.S. attorneys. In 2012, the Justice Department decided not to charge Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt for refusing to turn over documents related to the so-called Fast and Furious scandal, a botched gunrunning sting.
The committee is set to open public televised hearings next week, while Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty, is not set for trial until mid July.