Former President Donald J. Trump's trade adviser, Peter Navarro, has been sentenced to four months in prison for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. This comes after Navarro was found guilty in September of two misdemeanor counts of criminal contempt of Congress.
Navarro, 74, was the second Trump aide to face penalties related to one of the chief investigations into the Capitol riot. The judge overseeing the case, Amit P. Mehta, rejected Navarro's primary defense that he was directed by Trump not to cooperate with the subpoena and that he believed he was protected by executive privilege. Judge Mehta stated, "The words executive privilege are not magical incantations," emphasizing that it is not a "get-out-of-jail-free card."
Judge Calls Navarro's Decision to Flout Subpoena "Disappointing"
In a testy exchange with Navarro's lawyers, Judge Mehta expressed disappointment in Navarro's decision to disregard the subpoena, particularly when other aides to Trump were negotiating whether to comply. He also noted his respect for Navarro's professional achievements but found his behavior disappointing.
Navarro, a Harvard-trained economist and a vocal critic of China, served as a trade adviser to Trump before turning his focus to the pandemic response. However, after the 2020 election, he increasingly explored ways to subvert the outcome of the race and keep Trump in power.
Navarro's Involvement in Plan to Delay Certification of Election Results
Along with Stephen K. Bannon, a longtime adviser to Trump, Navarro helped devise a plan known as the Green Bay Sweep. The strategy aimed to delay certification of the election by persuading Republican lawmakers to repeatedly challenge the results in various swing states and pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to discredit the outcome. Navarro also cast doubt on the results of the race, compiling instances of purported irregularities and issuing a report claiming election fraud as part of what he described as an "immaculate deception."
Subpoena and Failure to Engage with House Committee Lead to Indictment
These efforts caught the attention of the House committee, which sought documents and testimony from Navarro. He repeatedly refused those requests, resulting in the House voting to hold him in contempt. The matter was then referred to the Justice Department, which obtained a grand jury indictment.
Prosecutors recommended on Thursday a six-month prison sentence and a $9,500 fine, arguing that Navarro had deliberately stonewalled the House committee. They stated, "He was happy to tell the world what he knew – but not Congress."
Navarro's Lawyers Ask for Probation, Citing Misunderstanding and Complex Legal Questions
Navarro's lawyers argued for six months' probation, claiming that his failure to engage with the House committee was a misunderstanding and that he genuinely believed Trump had invoked executive privilege. They also emphasized that the case raised complex legal questions about executive privilege and the separation of powers between Congress and the White House.
"This case is far from over," said Stanley Woodward Jr., a lawyer for Navarro, in a contentious exchange with Judge Mehta. He stated that he believes an appeals court will side with Navarro on constitutional grounds.
Navarro is the second high-ranking Trump aide to face penalties for contempt of Congress related to the Jan. 6 committee investigation. The first was Bannon, who was convicted on similar charges in 2022 and sentenced to four months in prison. He is currently free as his appeal progresses.