House Jan. 6 Panel Advances Charges Against Peter Navarro, Dan Scavino

House Jan. 6 Panel Advances Charges Against Peter Navarro, Dan Scavino
Peter Navarro, Director of the National Trade Council speaks during a press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, on March 22, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Joseph Lord
3/29/2022
Updated:
3/29/2022

The House Jan. 6 committee voted on Monday evening to advance criminal charges against two former aides to President Donald Trump in the commission’s latest bid to bolster its authority amid a raging legal battle over executive privilege.

The Jan. 6 committee was formed in June in a mostly party-line vote, and all but two Republicans—Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)—voted against forming the commission. The committee is led almost exclusively by Democrats, with Kinzinger and Cheney the only Republicans sitting on the panel.

The committee recommended contempt of Congress charges against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino, who each refused to testify before the committee, citing their claims of executive privilege as former White House advisers.

At the time of the vote, Jan. 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) rejected the claims of executive privilege.

“Executive privilege doesn’t belong to just any White House official. It belongs to the president,” Thompson said. “Here, President Biden has been clear that executive privilege does not prevent cooperation with the Select Committee by either Mr. Scavino or Mr. Navarro.

“Even if a president has formally invoked executive privilege regarding testimony of a witness—which is not the case here—that witness has the obligation to sit down under oath and assert the privilege question by question. But these witnesses didn’t even bother to show up.”

Neither of the former aides have given public responses to the charges, but Scavino seemed to refute the charges in a post he shared on Facebook of a Breitbart article that calls the committee’s “false.”

Claiming that the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally amounted to a full-fledged “insurrection” against the United States government, the Jan. 6 commission has been zealous in their pursuit of former Trump allies, including those who were not working with the White House at the time of the rally.

In October, the commission set its sights on former White House adviser Steve Bannon, who left the White House years before the Jan. 6 rally.

Bannon, citing executive privilege, refused the summons. The Democrat-led House quickly advanced a contempt of Congress charge against Bannon, and President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice has since indicted Bannon on the charge.

Trump’s attorneys have argued that Bannon and other former officials shouldn’t comply because the requested information is protected by Trump’s executive privilege.

Much the same story has played out with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who also refused the Jan. 6 commission summons in November, citing executive privilege.
Since then, the Jan. 6 commission has further expanded its search, targeting sitting members of Congress like Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), and even House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
McCarthy called the efforts to subpoena sitting members of Congress an “abuse of power,” and all three House Republicans refused to testify before the committee.

The panel also set its sights recently on Ginni Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, over claims that she texted Meadows during the Jan. 6 rally.

In view of the partisan nature of the summons and charges advanced by the commission some Republicans, including Trump himself, have accused it of a “witch hunt” exclusively targeting Democrats’ GOP enemies.

Others, like McCarthy, have been more ambiguous in their critiques of the committee. When the commission sent out its subpoena to Bannon, McCarthy argued that the ongoing legal disputes made the subpoena’s legitimacy unknown.

“They’re issuing an invalid subpoena,” McCarthy said. “Issuing an invalid subpoena weakens our power. He has the right to go to the court to see if he has executive privilege or not. I don’t know if he does or not, but neither does the committee. So they’re weakening the power of Congress itself by issuing an invalid subpoena.”

With the committee’s recommendation that Navarro and Scavino face criminal charges, it will now be left to the House of Representatives to advance the charge to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s desk for a final decision to open an investigation.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.
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