Prosecutors seek six-month prison term for Peter Navarro in contempt case

January 21, 2024

Federal prosecutors asked on Thursday night, January 18, for a sentence of six months in prison for Peter Navarro, a White House adviser to former President Donald Trump, for defying a subpoena from the House committee that investigated the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, reports The New York Times.

Prosecutors said they were seeking a sentence at the top end of the guidelines because of his “bad-faith strategy” of “sustained, deliberate contempt of Congress.”

“The defendant, like the rioters at the Capitol, put politics, not country, first, and stonewalled Congress’s investigation,” they wrote in their sentencing memo. “The defendant chose allegiance to former President Donald Trump over the rule of law.”

The memo echoed the sentence recommendation for Steve Bannon, who was ultimately given four months in prison for defying his own subpoena from the January 6 committee. The sentencing would make Navarro the second Trump official to be sentenced for ignoring the committee’s subpoenas.

According to th Times, sentencing is set for January 25 in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C..

Navarro was convicted on two counts of contempt of Congress in September and, this week, the judge presiding over the case, Amit P. Mehta, turned down a request from his lawyers to dismiss the verdict and convene a new trial. Navarro had argued that jurors were exposed to political bias while lunching outside the courthouse where demonstrators were protesting.

“The evidence establishes that the jurors only interacted with each other” and a court security officer, Judge Mehta wrote in a ruling on Tuesday.

Navarro’s lawyers argued that the subpoena flew in the face of the notion that a president could direct his subordinates to refuse to testify before Congress, citing executive immunity.

In their own memo, they wrote that “history is replete” with people who “have refused to comply with congressional subpoenas, and Dr. Navarro’s sentence should not be disproportionate from those similarly situated individuals.”

Navarro, a Harvard-trained economist and a vocal critic of China, helped devise some of the Trump Administration’s most adversarial trade policies and played a role in the U.S. pandemic response. But after the 2020 presidential election, he became more focused on efforts to keep Trump in power.

Navarro frequently made television appearances in which he cast doubt on the election results and peddled specious claims of voter fraud. He also documented those assertions in a report—as well as in a memoir he published after leaving the White House in which he described a strategy known as the Green Bay Sweep aimed at overturning the election results.

When the committee asked Navarro to testify, he repeatedly asserted executive privilege, insisting that Trump had ordered him not to cooperate. But Judge Mehta ruled that Navarro could not raise executive privilege in his defense at trial—saying that there was no compelling evidence that Trump had ever told him to ignore the committee.

Research contact: @nytimes