Judge Rejects Executive Privilege Defense in Peter Navarro’s Contempt of Congress Case

Judge Rejects Executive Privilege Defense in Peter Navarro’s Contempt of Congress Case
Former Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro arrives at a district court for a motion hearing in Washington on Aug. 31, 2022. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Joseph Lord

A federal judge has rejected a key defense in former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s contempt of Congress case.

Mr. Navarro was indicted for contempt of Congress on June 3, 2022, for failing to comply with a subpoena from the now-defunct House Jan. 6 Subcommittee. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Throughout the course of the panel’s investigation—which critics decried as one-sided and politically-motivated—the committee issued subpoenas to several of President Donald Trump’s former White House associates, including Mr. Navarro, former White House adviser Steve Bannon, and others.

Like many of President Trump’s associates, Mr. Navarro defied a subpoena from the panel on the grounds that his communications with the former president and his staff were protected under executive privilege, a doctrine that can be invoked by the president to protect some kinds of official communications.

Now, a judge has ruled that Mr. Navarro will not be able to tell a jury that this was part of his reasoning behind defying the subpoena.

Defense Inadmissible

In a Wednesday hearing at a federal court in Washington, Mr. Navarro told Judge Amit Mehta that President Trump had made it “very clear” that he intended to invoke executive privilege over communications with Mr. Navarro, CBS News reported.

The judge, however, ruled that there was insufficient evidence that President Trump had intended to invoke privilege, and thus ruled that Mr. Navarro would be prohibited from disclosing this to a jury, essentially blocking Mr. Navarro from his key defense in the case.

At the hearing, Mr. Navarro told Judge Mehta that he had spoken to President Trump on Feb. 20, 2022, roughly 11 days after the panel issued a subpoena against him.

During a three-minute call with the president, Mr. Navarro told the judge that “it was clear during that call that privilege was invoked, very clear.”

At a later meeting with President Trump on April 5, 2022, Mr. Navarro said, the president sent the same message.

“There was no question that privilege had been invoked from the get-go,” Mr. Navarro said.

Judge Mehta earlier elected to delay the trial so that the matter of executive privilege could be considered.

With his key defense now declared inadmissible by a judge, it is unclear how Mr. Navarro’s defense will play out in court.

Mr. Navarro was charged with contempt of Congress by the House Jan. 6 panel in March 2022 alongside Dan Scavino. The panel also advanced contempt of Congress charges against Mr. Bannon.

These charges were later sent to President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice by the then-Democrat controlled House of Representatives in a series of party-line votes. Attorney General Merrick Garland elected to press charges in each case.

Each man who refused to comply with the subpoena invoked executive privilege to back the decision.

Mr. Navarro’s lawyer told The Epoch Times he had no further comment about the outcome of the hearing.