Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro could soon be imprisoned for contempt of Congress after judge rejects request for release pending appeal

 February 9, 2024

A former senior adviser to former President Donald Trump may soon be forced to begin serving a prison sentence that stems from his being found guilty of being in criminal contempt of Congress.

Peter Navarro, who advised Trump on trade policy and the coronavirus pandemic, has been ordered by a federal judge to report to prison for a four-month sentence despite a pending appeal of his earlier conviction on two counts of contempt of Congress, The Washington Post reported.

He had been charged with the two counts of contempt after he defied a subpoena from the Democrat-controlled House Jan. 6 Select Committee that demanded he turn over certain documents as well as testify in a sworn deposition.

No evidence produced to support claim of executive privilege

According to a 12-page opinion and order from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, Navarro had asked to be released from any prison sentence pending appeal, and that request was partially granted in so far as he was granted a temporary delay to file a brief laying out his arguments for why he shouldn't be imprisoned.

Navarro did exactly that, but Mehta just denied the motion for continued release pending appeal and rejected all four grounds that Navarro had argued due to a determination that none of them raised a "substantial question of law," or a "close call" that could have been decided either way.

That included dismissing Navarro's contention that he had a "good-faith belief that President Trump had invoked executive privilege, which excused him from compliance." The judge also rejected the defendant's assertion that Trump's claimed executive privilege made him immune from prosecution for contempt of Congress.

The problem there, as the judge explained, is that Navarro was unable to provide any evidence that Trump himself had ever properly invoked his executive privilege on Navarro's behalf concerning the select committee's subpoena.

Claim of "political bias" flatly rejected

Judge Mehta wasn't finished yet, though, as he also struck down Navarro's claim that the contempt charges and resultant prosecution and conviction had been "motivated by political bias."

The judge wrote that Navarro "offers no actual proof to support that contention" and further asserted that, "f anything, the record demonstrates just the opposite," given that two other senior Trump aides -- former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino -- both similarly defied subpoenas from the same committee but managed to avoid prosecution for their non-compliance.

"Defendant’s cynical, self-serving claim of political bias poses no question at all, let alone a 'substantial' one," Mehta declared.

He concluded, "For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s request for release pending appeal is denied. Unless this Order is stayed or vacated by the D.C. Circuit, Defendant shall report to the designated Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) facility on the date ordered by the BOP."

Could be first of Trump's "inner circle" to be imprisoned over Jan. 6

Politico reported that a date for Navarro to report to prison has not yet been set, and it remains possible that he could still avoid serving that sentence if the D.C. appeals court intervenes promptly.

That said, it is looking likely that Navarro will be the first member of former President Trump's "inner circle" of senior aides and advisers who will go to prison in relation to the post-2020 election efforts to challenge and possibly overturn the disputed results in certain states.

Navarro was accused by the Democrat-led Jan. 6 committee of being a key player in developing a strategy to have members of Congress and state legislatures take action to challenge the reported results, either during the Jan. 6 congressional certification -- which was briefly disrupted by the Capitol riot -- or at the state level.

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