Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has declined a plea offer to plead guilty to a contempt of Congress charge, the lead federal prosecutor in the case told a judge on Friday.
At a status hearing on July 15, federal prosecutor Elizabeth Aloi told U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta that the Justice Department had offered to let Navarro plead guilty to a single count instead of the two he was indicted with.
Prosecutors also said the deal would mean they would not have sought more than the minimum 30-day jail time.
But the deal would have required Navarro to "comply with the January 6 committee subpoena to the satisfaction of the Justice Department," Aloi said.
Navarro attended the hearing with two defense attorneys. He had been representing himself before he was indicted on the criminal charges.
"It involves not only the President of the United States asserting his executive privilege, but [also] over 50 years of DOJ opinions that make it clear that top presidential aides are able to assert absolute immunity and not testify before Congress. Not only that, but also the Justice Department has longstanding policies about not prosecuting someone criminally for this kind of situation," he added. "So I wonder what changed."
John Rowley, another defense attorney, told reporters: "This is the first time in our nation’s 250-year history that a senior adviser to a president has been criminally charged for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena.
"In essence, this is a dispute between the Office of the President and Congress, and Mr. Navarro was placed on the horn of the dilemma—either to follow the executive direction or risk prosecution."
Trump’s attorneys have previously argued that former White House officials shouldn’t comply with congressional subpoenas because the requested information is protected by Trump’s executive privilege.
Judge Expresses Concern Over Treatment of NavarroMehta, an Obama appointee, said at the hearing that he was concerned about how Navarro was treated by the government.
Navarro was arrested on June 3 at Reagan National Airport by the FBI as he prepared to board a flight to Nashville, and was hand-cuffed even though he had been in touch with the FBI previously and lives across the street from the FBI's office in Washington, D.C. He was later taken into custody by agents from the U.S. Marshals service.
"It is curious to me, at a minimum, why the government treated Mr. Navarro's arrest the way it did," Mehta said on July 15. "It is a federal crime, but it is not a violent crime.”
"It's surprising that self-surrender was not offered as an opportunity," he added.
Navarro is the second former Trump adviser charged for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee. The first was Steve Bannon, who faces a similar set of two contempt charges. Bannon's case goes to trial on July 18.
Thompson had cited the report among other references in announcing in February the Jan. 6 committee's subpoena to Navarro.