Navarro, 72, is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents to the committee, according to the US Attorney’s Office for Washington. The charges against Navarro, the second former Trump advisor to face criminal charges in connection with rebuffing the committee, mirror advise those sought by the House and filed by US prosecutors in November against former White Houser Stephen K. Bannon, after he too refused to appear or produce documents to the committee.
The indictment was returned Thursday and unsealed Friday, and Navarro is to make his initial appearance this afternoon in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
TheJan. 6 committee subpoenaed Navarro on Feb. 9 seeking records and testimony from the former trade adviser, who has written and publicly discussed the effort to develop a strategy to delay or overturn certification of the 2020 election.
In its subpoena, the Select Committee said it had reason to believe that Navarro had information relevant to its investigation. Navarro, formerly an advisor to the President on various trade and manufacturing policies, has been a private citizen since departing the White House on Jan. 20, 2021.
Steve Bannon indicted after refusal to comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena
Prosecutors alleged that Navarro did not communicate at all with the committee after receiving the subpoena. The day after the Feb. 23 deadline for documents had passed, Navarro emailed in reply to a reminder from the committee, stating in part, “President Trump has invoked Executive Privilege in this matter …. Accordingly my hands are tied,” according to the indictment.
When the committee said several topics did not raise executive privilege concerns, Navarro replied on Feb. 28, said the privilege “is not mine to waive” and said the committee must directly negotiate the matter with Trump and his attorneys, prosecutors said.
Both Navarro and Bannon indicted by a grand jury in Washington — a rare move by the Justice Department to escalate the consequences of a dispute involving Congress by bringing criminal charges. Each charge against the two men carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. The charges will not compel Navarro to talk. Legal analysts have said Congress could sue to try to effect that result, hoping a judge would hold Navarro in civil contempt and jail 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 generally have sought to protect current and former aides from having to testify before Congress, and the Justice Department has in recent history refused to bring criminal cases against current and former officials after contempt findings from Congress. In 2008, for example, the department rebuffed charges against President George W. Bush’s chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, who had resisted subpoenas over the controversial forced resignations of US attorneys. In 2012, the department declined to pursue a contempt prosecution against Attorney General Eric Holder, who refused to turn over some documents about the so-called Fast and Furious scandal, a gunrunning sting gone wrong.
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.