A former Donald Trump adviser who refused to testify to House lawmakers investigating the events surrounding January 6 has been found guilty of contempt of Congress.
Peter Navarro was charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for what federal prosecutors argued was his abject defiance of the House select committee’s attempts to obtain evidence as part of its investigation into Mr Trump’s attempts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.
Each of those charges carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 12 January, 2024.
A jury deliberated for roughly four hours on 7 September following a two-day trial in Washington DC during which Navarro’s defence team presented no witnesses of their own.
US District Judge Amit Mehta had previously rejected Navarro’s blanket assertions of executive privilege under the former president in his defence against testifying to the committee. Navarro claimed that the former president instructed him to assert executive privilege, but Mr Trump never communicated that to the January 6 committee or in federal court.
In their closing arguments, federal prosecutors said Navarro believes himself to be “above the law” and that he knowingly rejected commands for his testimony and “chose not to for whatever reason.”
“If people like the defendant can choose to ignore the government’s subpoenas, the work of our government to serve its people cannot get done,” Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said.
Following the 2020 election, Navarro and Steve Bannon promoted a plan they called the “Green Bay Sweep” for congressional Republicans to block the certification of electoral college vote counts in battleground states, setting up their Republican-dominated state legislatures to fraudulently reject the outcomes. Navarro claimed at the time that he had support from more than 100 lawmakers.
On 19 December, 2020, then-President Trump’s call for “wild” protests in Washington DC referenced Navarro’s widely derided and debunked post-election report alleging widespread election fraud, used as a pretext to undermine the outcome.
House lawmakers voted to hold Navarro in contempt of Congress after his refusal to appear before the committee then forwarded his case to the US Department of Justice, which formally charged him last year.
The 72-year-old former trade adviser was charged with one count for failing to appear for a deposition and a second count for failing to produce documents requested by the committee.
Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison over his refusal to testify, though he remains free while appealing the decision. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump aide Dan Scavino also were held in criminal contempt for their refusal but prosecutors declined to charge them.
A final report from the House select committee determined Mr Trump criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to unlawfully overturn 2020 election results and failed to stop a mob of his supporters from breaching the halls of Congress as lawmakers convened to certify them.
The former president separately was charged in two sweeping criminal indictments alleging criminal conspiracies outlining similar findings from the committee’s report. He has pleaded not guilty to federal charges and state charges in Georgia, where he is among 18 other defendants accused of participating in a “criminal enterprised” charged under the state’s anti-racketeering statute.