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Trial Over Contempt Charges for Peter Navarro

Former President Donald Trump adviser Peter Navarro will head to trial Tuesday on two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress, after refusing to testify or provide documents to the U.S. congressional investigation of the attack on the Capitol.

Navarro, a longtime China hawk who advised Republican Trump on trade issues and also served on the COVID-19 task force, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Jury selection will begin Tuesday in the trial. It is unclear precisely when opening statements will take place.

The Democrat-led House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack wanted to ask him about a “Green Bay Sweep” plan to delay Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory that Navarro later detailed in a book he wrote after leaving the White House.

The committee ultimately issued the findings from its investigation in December 2022 without getting the chance to interview Navarro.

Earlier this year, special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump criminally for trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat, which Trump falsely claims was the result of fraud.

Navarro has maintained that his refusal to testify or provide documents demanded by a congressional subpoena was sparked by Trump’s invocation of executive privilege, a legal doctrine that shields certain White House communications from disclosure.

He was not able to get Trump to testify and has only produced one letter written by Trump’s attorney after Navarro’s indictment that claimed Navarro had an obligation to assert privilege.

At a hearing Aug. 28, Navarro testified that Trump made it “very clear” he should not testify before Congress in a phone call that took place 11 days after he received the committee’s February 2022 subpoena.

He said he relayed this message to the committee.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who will preside over the trial, questioned why Navarro could not articulate precisely what Trump said on the call.

“I still don’t know what the president said,” Mehta said at the Aug. 28 hearing, adding the evidence in support of Navarro’s claims was “pretty weak sauce.”

He ultimately rejected Navarro’s request to cite his phone call as evidence during the trial that Trump invoked privilege, finding Navarro had failed to provide adequate details about the substance of the call.

Mehta also found, even if Navarro believed he was immune from testifying, he still had to appear before the committee in response to the subpoena.

Each contempt count Navarro faces has the potential to a carry a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of up to $100,000.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who left the White House well before the Jan. 6 attack, was convicted on contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena before the same committee in July 2022.

He was sentenced to 4 months in prison in October, but his sentence was stayed pending appeal and has not been resolved.

© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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