WASHINGTON (AP) Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro has been charged with refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the Justice Department spared two other advisers, including former presidents. chief of staff, Mark Meadows, of the Crown.
The department’s decision not to prosecute Meadows and Dan Scavino, another adviser to former President Donald Trump, was revealed in a letter sent Friday by a federal prosecutor to a House of Representatives attorney. The move was reported hours after Navarro was indicted and a subsequent heated court appearance in which he vowed to challenge the contempt of Congress charges.
The flurry of activity comes just days before the House committee investigating the Capitol riot is scheduled to hold a prime-time hearing aimed at presenting the American public with the evidence it gathered on the course of the attack. The split decisions show how the Justice Department chose to assess the contempt dismissals it received from Congress on a case-by-case basis rather than automatically pursue charges against every Trump aide who resisted the subpoenas of the Congress.
Committee leaders called the decision not to prosecute Meadows and Scavino baffling. In a statement late Friday, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said, We hope the Department will provide more clarity on this. … No one is above the law.
Although the Justice Department has fired several Trump aides for potential prosecution for refusing to cooperate, Navarro is only the second to face criminal charges, following the former adviser’s indictment last fall. of the White House Steve Bannon.
Navarro, 72, was charged with one count of contempt for failing to appear for a deposition before the House committee and a second charge for failing to produce documents requested by the committee.
In an initial court appearance, he alleged the Department of Justice had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct and said he was told he could not contact anyone after being approached by an officer from the FBI at the airport on Friday and handcuffed. He said he was arrested while trying to board a flight to Nashville, Tennessee for a television appearance.
Who are these people? It’s not America, Navarro said. I was a distinguished public servant for four years!
Each charge carries a minimum sentence of one month in prison and a maximum of one year behind bars.
The Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland had been under pressure to move more quickly to decide whether to prosecute other Trump aides who had also defied House panel subpoenas.
The New York Times first reported on the decision not to charge Meadows and Scavino. A person familiar with the decision who was not authorized to discuss it publicly confirmed it to The Associated Press on Friday. The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, which made the decisions about each of Trump’s aides, declined to comment on Friday.
Meadows, a close Trump adviser considered by House investigators to be a vital witness to the key events, initially cooperated with the committee, relaying more than 2,000 text messages sent and received in the days before and after the attack. But in December, Meadows informed the committee that he would not be sitting for a deposition. Scavino was charged with contempt in April after refusing to cooperate with Congress.
A lawyer for Meadows did not immediately return the messages Friday night. Stan Brand, an attorney representing Scavino, said he hasn’t yet received the letter from the US Attorney’s Office, but learned the news through a third party. I am grateful that the Justice Department exercised its discretion to deny the charges, Brand said.
The indictment against Navarro alleges that when he was summoned to appear before the committee for a deposition earlier this year, he refused to do so and instead told the panel that because Trump had invoked executive privilege , my hands were tied.
After committee staff told him they thought there were matters he could discuss without raising executive privilege issues, Navarro again refused, ordering the committee to negotiate directly with Trump’s lawyers, according to the indictment. The committee proceeded with its scheduled deposition on March 2, but Navarro did not attend.
The indictment, dated Thursday, came days after Navarro revealed in a court filing that he was also subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury this week in the Department of Justice’s sprawling investigation. justice on the insurrection. The subpoena for Navarro, a Trump trade adviser, was the first known instance of prosecutors seeking testimony from someone who worked in Trump’s White House as they investigated the attack.
It was a pre-emptive strike by the prosecution against this trial, Navarro told investigative judge Zia Faruqui during his court appearance. It just goes against good faith and due process.
Navarro argued in his lawsuit on Tuesday that the House select committee investigating the attack is illegal and therefore a subpoena he issued to him in February is unenforceable under the law. He sued committee members, Chairwoman Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and U.S. Attorney in Washington, Matthew M. Graves, whose office is currently handling the criminal case against him.
In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Navarro said the focus of his trial was much broader than the subpoenas themselves, part of an effort to get the Supreme Court to address a number problems with the weaponization of congressional investigative powers since Trump took office.
Members of the select committee asked Navarro to testify about his efforts to help Trump annul the 2020 presidential election, including an appeal trying to persuade state lawmakers to join their efforts.
The former economics professor was one of the White House staffers who promoted Trump’s baseless allegations of mass voter fraud. Trump, in turn, promoted a lengthy report Navarro released in December 2020, which Navarro claimed erroneously contained more than enough evidence of the alleged misconduct and voter fraud to give his former boss victory. .
Despite opposition from several Trump allies, the January 6 panel, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, has managed to interview more than 1,000 witnesses about the insurgency over the past 11 months and is now preparing for a series of public hearings. next week. Lawmakers on the panel hope the half-dozen hearings will be a high-profile airing of the causes and consequences of the nationwide attack on the US government.
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