Trump legal news brief: Navarro heads to trial for contempt of Congress

Peter Navarro.
Peter Navarro. (Photo illustration; Yahoo News; photos: Brendan Smialowski/GettyImages, Anadolu Agency/ Getty Images, Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images, Jeff Swensen/Getty Images, Getty images [3])

A second former Trump administration official goes to trial on contempt of Congress charges, the 14th Amendment drumbeat grows louder, and co-defendants in the Georgia election interference and classified documents cases begin turning against the former president.

Jan. 6 election interference

Navarro trial begins on contempt of Congress charges

Key players: Former Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, special counsel Jack Smith

  • On Tuesday, Navarro’s trial got underway in Washington on charges that he defied a congressional subpoena issued by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Navarro has pleaded not guilty, saying his communications with then-President Donald Trump were protected by executive privilege, CNN reported.

  • If found guilty on the two counts he is charged with, Navarro could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.

  • Navarro is the second former Trump official to be charged for refusing to comply with a select committee subpoena. Last year, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was found guilty of two counts of criminal contempt. He is appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

  • Mehta, the judge handling Navarro’s case, said he believes the trial will be brief, perhaps only a single day.

Why it matters: In his 2021 book, In Trump Time, Navarro boasted of his plan to delay the certification of the 2020 election, USA Today reported, and he later said in an interview that “Trump was on board” with it. Those comments could factor into Smith’s case against the former president.

Supreme Court could decide 14th Amendment question on Trump eligibility to run in 2024

Key player: Former federal Judge Michael Luttig

  • As several states have begun preparing for legal challenges to keep Trump off the ballot in the 2024 presidential contest, the U.S. Supreme Court may be forced to weigh in on the question sooner rather than later, the Guardian reported.

  • Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits those who have “engaged in insurrection” from holding office, and some prominent legal scholars, including Luttig, have made the case that it should bar Trump from a return to the White House.

  • “This is one of the most fundamental questions that could ever be decided under our Constitution,” said Luttig, who testified before the House Jan. 6 select committee, in a Sunday interview on MSNBC. “And it will be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States sooner rather than later and most likely before the first primaries.”

Why it matters: If the Supreme Court were to take up the issue of Trump’s eligibility, the case would be heard by three justices who were appointed by Trump.

Classified documents and Georgia election interference

Trump co-defendants start throwing him under the bus

Key players: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Georgia state GOP Chair David Shafer, Georgia state Sen. Shawn Still, local GOP official Cathleen Latham, Mar-a-Lago IT director Yuscil Taveras

  • Facing the prospect of prison time if found guilty of felony charges, some of Trump’s co-defendants have begun pursuing defense strategies that further implicate the former president, Politico reported.

  • Lawyers for Meadows, who is charged with violating Georgia’s RICO Act and of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, argued in court that he never asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to change vote totals in the 2020 presidential election. Trump, of course, was heard on tape doing just that, asking Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” to reverse his loss in the state.

  • Accused Georgia fake electors Shafer, Still and Latham also said in recent court filings that the charges they face stemmed from following the instructions given to them by Trump and his lawyers.

  • Last month Taveras changed his testimony in the classified documents case brought by Smith, admitting there was an attempt made to erase security camera footage at Mar-a-Lago.

Why it matters: The number of co-defendants in the documents and Georgia cases increases the likelihood that some will part ways with Trump, perhaps cutting deals with prosecutors.