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Ex-Trump adviser convicted of contempt of Congress

World

Peter Navarro

10 months ago
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Peter Navarro, a former trade adviser to President Donald Trump, has been convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to co-operate with an inquiry into the US Capitol riot.

Prosecutors said Navarro acted "above the law" by ignoring a subpoena from a congressional investigation.

He faces up to a year in prison for each of the two contempt counts.

Outside court, Navarro vowed to appeal against this "landmark case" all the way to the Supreme Court.

"This is the first time in the history of our republic," he said, "that a senior White House adviser, an alter ego of the president, has ever been charged with this alleged crime."

He was found guilty on Thursday by the 12-member jury after four hours of deliberations, following a trial that lasted two days.

Navarro, who served as Mr Trump's senior trade adviser throughout his presidency, had been served with a subpoena by a US House of Representatives select committee in February 2022.

But he did not hand over any of the requested emails or documents or appear to testify before the Democratic-led panel.

The committee had hoped to question Navarro about efforts to delay certification of the 2020 election, according to a former staff director for the panel who testified in court.

Navarro was indicted in June 2022 and arrested by FBI agents at a Washington airport as he was boarding a flight to Nashville, Tennessee.

During their closing arguments, prosecutors said Navarro chose his allegiance to Mr Trump over complying with the subpoena.

"That is contempt. That is a crime," prosecutor Elizabeth Aloi told the court.

Navarro's lawyer, Stanley Woodward, argued that the evidence would "not show that Dr Navarro was wilful in his failure to comply".

When contacted by the committee, Navarro said former president Trump had instructed him to cite executive privilege.

This is a legal principle which allows certain White House communications to be kept under wraps.

But last week, Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama nominee, ruled there was no evidence that Mr Trump or executive privilege could have allowed Navarro to ignore the committee's summons.

Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign adviser, told the BBC: "It is not uncommon for Congress to hold former or serving members of presidential administrations in contempt.

"It is uncommon for the actual justice department to go forward with these prosecutions."

He cited the example of the former US Attorney General Eric Holder, under Democratic President Barack Obama, who was found in contempt of a Republican-controlled Congress for refusing to hand over subpoenaed documents, but was not criminally prosecuted.

"We're going down a dangerous route by escalating these things," said Mr Lanza.

"That's not good for our system of government," he added.

Along with an appeal, Navarro's lawyers are motioning for a mistrial, alleging that jury members went outside court during their deliberations and encountered protesters.

In his 2021 book, In Trump Time, Navarro said he was the architect of a strategy to challenge the election results.

Claiming to have evidence of widespread voter fraud, the idea was for congressional Republicans to delay certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

Navarro called this strategy the Green Bay Sweep, a reference to a tactic in American football,

The House committee said Navarro's claims of massive ballot fraud had been exposed as baseless by state and local officials.

In addition to a maximum sentence of a year in prison for each count, Navarro also faces fines of up to $100,000 (£80,000).

Another key Trump ally, former strategist Steve Bannon, was convicted of two counts of contempt for defying the committee's legal summons in July 2022.

Bannon was sentenced to four months in jail, but has remained free while his defence team appeals the conviction.

Navarro's sentencing is scheduled for January.

source: BBC