A federal judge on Thursday refused to dismiss the criminal contempt of Congress charge filed against former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro for failing to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack. 2021 to the United States Capitol.
In his opinion, US District Judge Amit Mehta dismantled a wide variety of arguments that Navarro had made to try to get the case dismissed. Mehta’s decision clears the way for the contempt of Congress case, the second such prosecution the Justice Department has filed stemming from the now-defunct House investigation on Jan. 6, to go to trial later this month. .
Mehta wrote that Navarro had not provided sufficient evidence to support his claim that former President Donald Trump had asserted privilege over the documents and testimony sought by the House Jan. 6 committee.
“[Navarro] He has not offered an affidavit or testimony from him or the former president. His argument is based solely on his attorney’s representations, which are not evidence,” Mehta wrote. “Without actual evidence, the court cannot find that there was a formal invocation of privilege by the former president.”
The judge was also not swayed by Navarro’s arguments that the Jan. 6 committee should have approached Trump to resolve concerns about privilege.
“The court cannot dismiss a contempt of Congress charge on the mere presumption that President Trump would have asserted executive privilege if asked,” he wrote.
Mehta rejected Navarro’s claims that the committee was procedurally flawed in a way that should allow him to avoid prosecution. Mehta was also not convinced by Navarro’s claims that he was the target of selective prosecution. The other former Trump advisers Navarro singled out, former White House officials Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino, whom the DOJ declined to indict, engaged extensively with the committee before failing to comply with their subpoenas in the investigation, he said. Mehta, and they also received written instructions from Trump’s lawyers raising concerns about privilege.
“These interactions with the Select Committee are in stark contrast to those of the Defendant, who communicated with the Select Committee over a three-week period primarily through brief emails and public statements,” the judge wrote.
The committee dissolved with the Republican Party’s takeover of the House and concluded its work with a report released late last year. However, the committee’s dissolution does not affect the Justice Department’s criminal prosecution of Navarro, and his trial is scheduled to begin on January 30.
Mehta’s opinion also resolved some disputes over what defenses Navarro can present at trial, and the Obama-appointed judge accepted several of the Justice Department’s arguments that will limit the evidence Navarro will be able to offer a jury.
The Justice Department had similar success limiting the defenses that Steve Bannon, a Trump ally who was also indicted for failing to comply with a House Jan. 6 committee subpoena, was able to present at his trial last year. A jury convicted Bannon and is now appealing the case.