Former Trump aide Peter Navarro indicted for contempt of Congress

Mr Navarro’s indictment comes ahead of the select committee’s public hearings

Former Trump aide Peter Navarro indicted for contempt of Congress

A federal grand jury has indicted former president Donald Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro for contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the riot on 6 January at the US Capitol.

Federal agents arrested the ex-Trump aide on Friday morning as he was boarding an airplane for Nashville.

During his initial appearance before US Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui, Mr Navarro complained that his arrest and detention amounted to prosecutorial misconduct because he was handcuffed and placed in a jail cell, and said his case should be heard by the Supreme Court because, in his telling, the Justice Department had colluded with Congress and the White House to strip him of executive privilege.

He also argued that his criminal case should be delayed because he has also filed a lawsuit against the House January 6 select committee and said he would be representing himself in both cases. Judge Faruqui noted that it’s unlikely such a delay would be granted, .

“I’m trying to do the honourable thing here,” Mr Navarro said before boasting that he had “literally saved millions of people’s jobs”.

He added: “Who are these people? This is not America. I was a distinguished civil servant for four years. No one questioned my ethics”.

The magistrate judge also cautioned Mr Navarro that his frequent appearances in the media could be used against him.

“Every time you speak, you could be putting yourself at risk. Please don't miss forest for the trees,” he said.

A court official later explained to Mr Navarro that the travel notification was necessary because he has been charged with failing to appear for an official proceeding.

The ex-Trump adviser was subsequently released on the condition that he notify the court of domestic travel, obtain permission for international travel or travel outside the continental United States, refrain from possessing or using illegal drugs, and not possess any firearm or destructive device.

Apparently ignoring Judge Faruqui’s advice, Mr Navarro continued to rail against the select committee and air grievances against the Justice Department in an impromptu press conference just outside the courthouse following his hearing.

“I was on my way to Nashville today to do a TV appearance with Mike Huckabee’s show. All right? And instead of coming to my door where I live, which, by the way, is right next to the FBI. Instead of calling me and saying, hey, we need you down at court, we’ve got a warrant for you. I would have gladly come. What did they do? They intercepted me getting on the plane, and then they put me in handcuffs. They bring me here. They put me in leg irons. They stick me in a cell,” he said.

Continuing, Mr Navarro claimed the select committee was a “kangaroo committee” that was “investigating for punitive purposes” with the aim of preventing Mr Trump from running for president in 2024, though the panel has no authority to prevent the former president — or anyone — from mounting a presidential campaign.

He also appeared to confess having willfully defied a congressional subpoena, telling reporters that rather than comply, he told the select committee to “go negotiate with Donald Trump and his attorney because I’m in an untenable constitutional position,” but minutes later said he would not answer “any questions pertaining to the case” because he could not “speak specifically about legal matters”.

Mr Navarro is charged with two counts of contempt of Congress — one for refusing to appear for a deposition and another for refusing to produce documents to the select committee. Each count carries a minimum of 30 days in jail and a maximum of one year along with a fine of up to $10,000.

The committee had issued a subpoena to Mr Navarro commanding him to turn over documents to the panel and appear to give evidence in a deposition on 23 February, but the ex-White House adviser refused to do so, claiming that the documents in question were shielded by executive privilege — a legal doctrine which protects communications between and among a president and his advisers — and argued that he was immune from having to testify because he had been one of former president Donald Trump’s closest advisers.

Committee members had wished to question him regarding his role in hatching a plan to delay the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Mr Navarro had detailed his plan, which he dubbed the “Green Bay Sweep,” in an interview with former Trump administration adviser Steve Bannon — who was also indicted on contempt of Congress charges after defying the select committee — and also detailed the plans in his book, In Trump Time.

Citing his refusal to comply with the subpoena, the House of Representatives voted in April to hold Mr Navarro —as well as former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Dan Scavino — in contempt of Congress and refer him to the Justice Department for prosecution.

During Mr Navarro’s arraignment, he said he would represent himself pro se and alleged “prosecutorial misconduct,” adding that he was not allowed to make a phone call while in a jail cell, according to NBC News’ Ryan Reilly.

“This is something that needs to get to the Supreme Court,” he said and accused the White House and Congress of colluding to strip Mr Trump of his executive privilege.

“This is not the way that America is supposed to function,” he said. “No American should be treated the way these people treated me today.”

On 1 June, the day before the grand jury approved the indictment against him, Mr Navarro wrote an op-ed in the conservative Washington Times calling the select committee a “kangaroo court.”

Mr Navarro’s indictment comes a week before the select committee is set to begin its first public hearings on its findings. The panel’s first hearing is set for 9 June, nearly a year after the select committee was assembled and almost a year and a half after a mob of Mr Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol complex in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

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