Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro convicted of contempt of Congress

WASHINGTON — Peter Navarro, a former Trump White House adviser, was convicted Thursday of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena related to the plot to overturn the 2020 election.

The jury deliberated for about four hours before finding Navarro, 74, guilty of two counts of contempt for refusing to testify before a House committee on Jan. 6 and turn over subpoenaed documents.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta has scheduled his sentencing for January 12.

The two counts each carry a sentence of not less than 30 days and not more than one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.

“There is no mistake, no accident,” prosecutor John Crabb told jurors in the federal courtroom in Washington, D.C., during closing arguments Thursday morning.

“This man believes he is above the law,” Crabb said. “In this country, no one is above the law.”

Navarro’s attorney, Stanley Woodward, said in his closing statement that the government had failed to prove that his client was guilty of criminal contempt of Congress.

“In order for the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it must also prove that Dr. “Navarro’s failure to comply with the subpoena was not the result of an accident, error or carelessness,” Woodward said, emphasizing the last three words repeatedly.

“This case is about those three words,” he said, adding that the government did not tell jurors where Navarro was at the time he was scheduled to appear before the committee on Jan. 6.

In rebuttal, Crabb said: “Who cares where he was? What matters is where he wasn’t.”

Navarro said he didn’t show up because former President Donald Trump told him to invoke executive privilege in the case, although Trump never told the committee on Jan. 6 or provided any information in the Navarro case shows that he would have done so.

Prosecutors said Navarro had a duty to show up anyway and answer any questions he could.

“Contempt means disregard for the rule of law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said in her closing argument. She said Navarro “knew he was ordered to appear and produce documents and for some reason he chose not to.”

“It doesn’t matter that the defendant refused to comply because he believed the former president was asserting executive privilege,” Aloi said.

“If people like the defendant can choose to ignore the government’s subpoenas, our government’s job serving its people cannot be done,” she added.

The process moved quickly; Jury selection took place Tuesday and opening statements and testimony concluded late Wednesday afternoon.

The jury began deliberations shortly after 11 a.m. ET on Thursday. “We are now in God’s hands,” Navarro tweeted early in the afternoon, asking for donations to his legal defense fund to “fight these armed partisan bastards.”

After the verdict, Navarro’s lawyers filed a motion for a mistrial, telling the judge that the jury had taken a break during deliberations and protesters had been outside the courthouse with signs about Jan. 6.

Woodward said the jury reached a verdict about 10 minutes after recess.

Mehta urged Woodward to file a motion based on his concerns and said he would consider the matter at a later date.

Navarro was charged last year with two counts of contempt of Congress: one for failing to produce documents and the other for failing to testify.

Woodward told jurors in his opening statement that Navarro did not dispute many of the facts presented in the case, including that he was issued and accepted a subpoena and that he did not appear to testify or provide required documentation. But Woodward argued that Navarro did not willfully fail to comply with the subpoena, a crucial part of the case.

Prosecutors called three members of the Jan. 6 committee as witnesses, while the defense called no witnesses.

On his way into the courthouse Wednesday morning, Navarro carried a sign with an enlarged photo of former President Donald Trump gesturing a salute. When asked why he had the shield, Navarro replied: “Commander in Chief.”

On his way Thursday, he told reporters that “today is judgment day” and said he was a victim of an “armed Biden Justice Department.”

Before the trial began, Navarro made several claims of executive privilege to avoid contempt charges. He argued that Trump directed him to invoke authority that could be used to protect the president’s deliberations to stop him from sharing information with the Jan. 6 panel.

In a ruling last week, the judge presiding over the case rejected that argument, noting that the “extraordinary assertion of power” granted by executive privilege “should not be exercised lightly,” noting that there is no evidence to support Navarro’s claim.

Navarro had repeatedly indicated that his case was destined for the Supreme Court. “Because this case isn’t really about me,” he said Tuesday. “It’s about the constitutional separation of powers and executive privilege.”

Woodward told NBC News on Wednesday that Navarro was willing to appeal if the jury found him guilty.

Navarro is one of several Trump allies who have been flouted by Congress in recent years.

Last year, a jury found former White House strategist Steve Bannon guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a Jan. 6 subpoena from the committee. He was sentenced to four months in prison and a $6,500 fine.

He has appealed and still has to serve his sentence.

In 2021, the Democratic-led House of Representatives found former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt for refusing to answer questions about the Capitol insurrection. The Justice Department declined to prosecute Meadows. who handed over some emails and documents to the committee on January 6th.

Daniel Barnes and Gary Grumbach reported from Washington. Dareh Gregorian and Zoë Richards reported from New York.

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