The Justice Department is encouraging a judge to exclude at trial any claims from former President Trump aide Peter Navarro that he defied a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee due to concerns over executive privilege.
The late Tuesday filing from the department comes in response to a successful last-minute effort by Navarro to delay his trial after forwarding a January letter from former President Trump’s attorney just before arguments were set to begin.
The letter does nothing to change the case, the Department of Justice (DOJ) argued, as the jury “should be charged with deciding only the essential elements of the charged offense, that is: whether the Defendant knew he had been subpoenaed by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol…to produce documents and appear for a deposition, and nonetheless made a deliberate decision not to do either.”
Navarro was subpoenaed by the now-disbanded committee in February of last year as lawmakers sought to speak to the trade and coronavirus adviser about the Navarro Report, a three-part series he compiled claiming to “provide a demonstration that President Trump had a good faith belief that the November 3, 2020 Presidential election results, were, indeed, the poisonous fruit of widespread fraud and election irregularities.”
DOJ has maintained in numerous battles over executive privilege that it is the current president who holds the power to block officials from testifying.
But the filing also argues that such a privilege cannot be used as a blanket excuse to avoid all questions, noting the committee largely wished to speak with Navarro about “matters undertaken in his personal capacity with persons outside the government” rather than any conversations he may have had with Trump.
Navarro claimed at the time he was unable to comply with the committee’s request, but it took nearly a year for Trump to make such an assertion through his lawyer.
“Because the Defendant failed to raise an immunity claim with the committee, he should not now be allowed to invoke testimonial immunity after the fact to foreclose prosecution,” DOJ wrote.
The House voted to hold Navarro in contempt of Congress last April, a referral accepted by the Justice Department, along with one for one-time Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Bannon was found guilty and in October sentenced to four months in prison for violating his subpoena from the committee, a verdict he is now appealing.