A federal jury in Washington, DC, has begun deliberating the criminal contempt of Congress charges against former Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.
Navarro faces two counts stemming from his failure to comply with the demands for documents and the request for testimony in a subpoena issued by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
He is the second ex-aide to former President Donald Trump to be prosecuted for his lack of cooperation with the committee. Steve Bannon was convicted last year on two contempt counts. Bannon’s case is currently on appeal.
“The subpoena – it is not hard to understand,” Justice Department attorney Elizabeth Aloi said during closing arguments Thursday, adding that the subpoena told Navarro “what he was required to do and when he was required to do it.”
Navarro’s attorney Stanley Woodward contested the idea that the subpoena was simple, staying that the subpoena did not specify where in the Capitol complex Navarro was supposed to show up for his deposition.
He also said that prosecutors failed to prove that Navarro was willful in his failure to comply with the subpoena, arguing that prosecutors hadn’t established that his non-compliance with the demand for testimony was not the result of a mistake or accident.
“Why didn’t the government present evidence to you about where Dr. Navarro was or what he was doing” on the day of the scheduled deposition, Woodward asked the jury. “Something stinks.”
Navarro, who was still working at the White House in the period after the 2020 election, lost a pre-trial fight to argue to the jury that Trump asserted an executive privilege that shielded him from the subpoena, and he and his attorneys have signaled that, if convicted, he will raise that and other legal issues on appeal.
“So today’s ‘Judgment Day.’” Navarro told reporters as he walked into the courthouse Thursday.
“I have been stripped, stripped of virtually every defense by the court and yet there is some defense left and the reality here is the government has not proved his case,” he said. “Please understand that the Biden-weaponized Department of Justice is the biggest law firm in the world. That’s what I’m fighting against.”
The trial itself moved forward this week with notable speed and simplicity. It took less than a day for the jury to hear all the evidence in the case.
Prosecutors put just three witnesses on the stand, all former staff members to the House January 6 committee. The Justice Department used their testimony to make the case that the committee had good reason to subpoena Navarro and that he was informed repeatedly of its demands.
Navarro’s defense team engaged in only brief cross examination, questioning just one of the government’s witnesses. His lawyers were focused on the element of the charge that requires a showing that Navarro was willful and deliberate in his decision not to comply with the subpoena – meaning that his lack of compliance was not the result of an inadvertent mistake or accident.
The defense did not put on any witnesses of their own, having abandoned a plan to call an FBI agent who worked on the Justice Department probe into Navarro for questioning on the lack of DOJ investigating into Navarro’s whereabouts on the day his committee deposition was scheduled.