Former White House official Peter Navarro indicted on contempt of Congress charges

Former Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was taken into custody in handcuffs Friday after his indictment by a federal grand jury for criminal contempt of Congress, in another high-profile prosecution stemming from the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The former Trump official was arrested by an FBI agent, taken to a jail cell, and appeared in a court hearing in the District. He told Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui that he plans to represent himself in the case.

“This is not the way America is supposed to function,” Mr. Navarro said. “No American should be treated the way these people treated me today.”

Mr. Navarro doubled down on his opinion that the Jan. 6 committee is a “sham,” adding that he believed lawmakers on the panel are working in tandem with the White House.

Mr. Navarro, who said he was en route from the District of Columbia to Nashville for a television appearance, alleged that the Justice Department committed “prosecutorial misconduct” and said he felt his arrest at the airport was a punitive measure.

“I’m not a flight risk,” he said. “Who are these people? This is not America. I was a distinguished public servant for four years!”

Mr. Navarro was indicted on two counts of contempt stemming from his refusal to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee, which is investigating the Capitol riot.

He was charged with one count of contempt for failing to appear for a deposition, and another count for his refusal to produce documents to the Democrat-led panel, despite being subpoenaed by the committee, according to the Justice Department.

The House voted in April to hold Mr. Navarro, along with former Trump political adviser Dan Scavino, in contempt of Congress for their failure to cooperate with the committee after being subpoenaed.

Mr. Navarro joins former White House strategist Steve Bannon as the second person to be indicted by the Justice Department over his refusal to aid the investigation into the riot. Mr. Bannon is awaiting a criminal trial this summer.

The House also voted in December to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt for also failing to cooperate with the panel, though the Justice Department has yet to prosecute Mr. Meadows.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said Mr. Navarro would have been in a better position if he had appeared and invoked the Fifth Amendment, instead of choosing not to appear before the panel at all.

Mr. Navarro has also spoken extensively against the committee and its involvement with him on national news networks.

“That’s going to weigh heavily against his defense,” Mr. Turley said.

Mr. Turley also said that Mr. Navarro’s public comments about the committee and its investigation made him a more clear-cut case than Mr. Meadows or Mr. Scavino.

“The Navarro case may be the easiest for the Justice Department to prosecute because of the complete refusal to cooperate, combined with his public discussion of the underlying subject matter,” Mr. Turley said. “If one wants to create some precedent, the Navarro case is the most pressing in the view of the prosecution.”

Mr. Navarro’s indictment brought mixed reactions.

Liberal groups celebrated news of the indictment, hoping that the Justice Department will follow suit on others connected to the Capitol riot.

“The first Trump White House indictment for the coup!” tweeted Democratic Coalition, a progressive campaign organization that helps elect Democrats to office nationwide.

Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, said she hopes Mr. Navarro’s indictment will result in more prosecutions in the coming months.

“Today’s indictment of Peter Navarro will help ensure that Congress is able to learn the full truth behind the White House attempts to steal the election that Donald Trump lost. This indictment has been slow to come, but we sincerely hope it is the first of many to come from the Justice Department,” Ms. Hobert Flynn said.

Republicans came to Mr. Navarro’s defense, insisting again that the Jan. 6 committee is a partisan sham.

“The January 6th committee is illegitimate, and thus, no American should be held in contempt of Congress for not complying with a committee that is not duly formed and duly populated,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, said there was a double standard between Democrats and Republicans when it came to the legal system.

Mr. Gohmert pointed to the acquittal of Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman, whom a jury found not guilty of lying to the FBI, in contrast to the indictment of Mr. Navarro.

“It actually puts an exclamation point on the fact that we have a two-tiered justice system,” Mr. Gohmert told Newsmax.

The Jan. 6 committee, which will begin holding hearings next week, has been aggressively ramping up its investigation as the midterms draw near.

The panel, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, recently subpoenaed five GOP lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, after they had refused to voluntarily appear before the committee.

Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Mo Brooks of Alabama were also issued subpoenas.

Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Jordan, and Mr. Biggs said that they want more information on what materials the panel would rely upon in questioning, as well as an explanation of the constitutional basis for their subpoenas.

Republicans have been a largely united front on slamming the committee as politically motivated to attack the GOP, while Democrats have portrayed it as a necessary tool to find out the roots of how the pro-Trump riot occurred last year.

The committee is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

A hearing for Mr. Navarro is scheduled for Thursday.

— This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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