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Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro found guilty for defying Jan. 6 committee subpoena

Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro outside the federal court in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 31. Navarro was found guilty on two counts of criminal contempt for defying a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol.
Manuel Balce Ceneta
/
AP
Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro outside the federal court in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 31. Navarro was found guilty on two counts of criminal contempt for defying a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol.

Updated September 7, 2023 at 6:21 PM ET

Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro was found guilty Thursday of two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

A federal jury deliberated for less than four hours before issuing its verdict. Navarro, 74, joins Steve Bannon as the second former Trump official to be prosecuted for not cooperating with the select committee.

Navarro, who served as director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy under Trump, was originally subpoenaed by the committee in February 2022, seeking his testimony and that he turn over documents related to the investigation. The subpoena from the Democratic-led select committee came after Navarro wrote about his efforts to delay the certification of the 2020 election results in a memoir he published after leaving the White House.

In response to the subpoena, Navarro argued he was immune from testimony because he was shielded by executive privilege through former President Trump.

That line of defense was dismissed, however, ahead of Navarro's trial in a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta. With his conviction, Navarro now faces up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 for each charge.

Thursday's verdict capped a two-day trial that featured less than three hours of witness testimony — none of which came from the defense team. Prosecutors said Navarro "chose allegiance to former President Donald Trump" over abiding by the congressional subpoena.

"Our government only works when people play by the rules and it only works when people are held accountable when they do not. When a person intentionally and deliberately chooses to defy a congressional subpoena, that is a crime," Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said in her closing arguments on Thursday, according to Politico.

Because Navarro couldn't make the argument about executive privilege, the prosecution only had to prove that the former aide received the subpoena, that the information the committee sought was relevant to its investigation and that Navarro intentionally chose not to adhere to subpoena's demands.

Attorneys for Navarro sought to clear the former Trump adviser by asking the court at one point to consider that their client didn't have any of the documents sought by the committee, the Washington Post reported. But Navarro never actually told the court he did not have the documents the committee was after.

At another point in the trial, the defense tried to argue that prosecutors couldn't prove that Navarro intentionally missed his scheduled deposition with the committee, according to the Post. "We don't know that he wasn't stuck on the Metro," defense attorney Stanley E. Woodward told the judge. When the judge asked if he was indeed hindered from attending, Woodward responded, "I don't know."

In seeking Navarro's cooperation, the Jan. 6 committee said his own book detailed how he was involved in efforts to delay Congress's certification of Joe Biden's win in the 2020 election, as well as overturn the results.

Navarro reportedly worked with Bannon and others to develop efforts to delay certification of the election results, the panel said. In his memoir, In Trump Time: My Journal of America's Plague Year, Navarro described his work as the "last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats' jaws of deceit." He wrote about a strategy called the "Green Bay Sweep" designed to help reverse the results of the election in key states won by Biden.

As the trial began earlier this week, Navarro posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, writing, "Trial starts in an hour I love the smell of justice in the morning. Can't smell a thing." He also argued online Tuesday that he was on trial for "an alleged crime no senior White House official ever charged with."

This marks the second guilty verdict of a former Trump aide for failing to cooperate with the House select committee's efforts to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. Bannon, who served as a chief strategist and counselor to the former president, was sentenced to four months in prison last October for defying a subpoena from the committee, but remains free pending an appeal.

Navarro's conviction is only the latest turn in the ongoing legal fallout from Jan. 6. As Trump is running to win a second term in office, he faces 91 criminal indictments in state and federal court, including four federal charges tied to his alleged efforts to overturn the election results.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.