When it comes to the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, there are some complex dimensions to the probe, but enforcement of subpoenas doesn’t have to be one of them. As regular readers know, Peter Navarro was a key insider in Donald Trump’s White House; he has important information; he was subpoenaed to cooperate with the bipartisan investigation; and he refused.
With this in mind, House Democrats — who didn’t want congressional subpoenas to be seen as optional invitations — voted two months ago to hold Navarro in contempt and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
Evidently, this did not go unnoticed at Main Justice. NBC News reported:
Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro has been indicted on contempt of Congress charges, the Department of Justice said Friday. Navarro, 72, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday on two counts of contempt after snubbing a subpoena from the House committee investigating Jan. 6 seeking testimony and documents.
Coincidentally, Navarro appeared on MSNBC yesterday afternoon and “The Beat” host Ari Melber reminded his guest of the irony of the circumstances: Navarro is willing to talk to the media about his perspective, but not Congress. “You do realize these investigators can hear you when you talk on TV?” Melber asked.
The question took on some additional significance today.
According to the Justice Department’s statement, each count of contempt of Congress carries a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of up to $100,000.
In case this isn’t obvious, Navarro is not an obscure figure in Trump World. On the contrary, as we’ve discussed, Navarro was a key White House insider; he appears to have highly relevant information; and he’s boasted about his role in trying to overturn Trump’s 2020 defeat.
The fact that congressional investigators would want to seek answers from him was inevitable. The fact that he’s been indicted for ignoring a legal summons was not inevitable.
If this broader legal dynamic sounds at all familiar, it’s not your imagination. The House voted last fall to hold Steve Bannon in contempt when he ignored a Jan. 6 committee subpoena, and soon after, the former White House strategist was indicted. Democratic lawmakers also voted to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt when he refused to honor a subpoena, but at least for now, he hasn’t been charged.
It’s difficult to say with confidence why the Justice Department treated the cases differently — there may very well be a rationale tied to a larger case — but Navarro has found himself in Bannon’s category, not Meadows’.
Navarro will now likely be treated like any other criminal defendant in the federal court system: He’ll be arraigned; he’ll enter a plea; and if he pleads not guilty, a judge will set a trial date. Navarro’s initial court appearance is expected this afternoon.
Others weighing whether or not to comply with the bipartisan select committee’s subpoenas should probably take note.
Complicating matters, this isn’t the only area of legal concern for the former presidential adviser. In fact, it was earlier this week when Navarro publicly acknowledged that the FBI stopped by his home to deliver another subpoena — not from the Jan. 6 committee, but from Justice Department investigators who are also scrutinizing last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.
It’s not yet clear whether Navarro intends to comply with that legal summons, though his grand jury indictment should encourage him to cooperate.