June 6

By Lisa Hagen

The Justice Department announced Friday that former White House adviser Peter Navarro was indicted by a federal grand jury for contempt of Congress over defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee, becoming the second Trump-era official to be charged for such obstruction.

Navarro, who worked in the Trump administration on trade policy and elevated unsubstantiated claims about 2020 election fraud, is charged with two counts of contempt for refusing to appear for a deposition and for neglecting to produce documents subpoenaed by the House select committee. The DOJ said the indictment was unsealed Friday, and Navarro will appear before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in the afternoon.

The panel, which is investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, has sought various testimony and documents from those who served in former President Donald Trump’s inner circle – both inside and outside of the White House – and more recently from members of Congress. The committee issued Navarro the subpoena on Feb. 9, but he refused to meet the February and March deadlines to testify and provide records.

If Navarro is found guilty, he could serve 30 days up to a maximum of one year in jail for each of his two criminal contempt charges. Such a charge also carries as high as $100,000 in fines.

Navarro filed a lawsuit against the select committee over the subpoenas and like other Trump officials, argues that he’s covered from providing such information because of executive privilege. He’s also facing another subpoena from federal prosecutors related to the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation. The move from DOJ was a significant step that seeks to involve those in the White House as it investigates the breach at the Capitol and efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.

“The ability of Joe Biden or an incumbent president to strip a predecessor of executive privilege, that’s wrong,” Navarro said in an MSNBC interview this week, claiming the subpoenas can’t be legally upheld because the Jan. 6 committee itself isn’t “duly authorized.”

The indictment comes seven months after a federal grand jury charged Trump’s former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon for evading his subpoena related to the Jan. 6 probe. But unlike Navarro, Bannon wasn’t serving in an official White House capacity during the attack. Navarro became a private citizen when he left on the day of Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

The committee, which includes seven Democrats and two Republicans – both of whom supported Trump’s impeachment over his handling of the attack – continues to investigate and interview witnesses as it prepares to release its findings at a series of public hearings starting next Thursday night. But it’s unclear how much the committee will share and how exactly they’ll be structured.

“The Select Committee will hold a hearing to provide the American people with a summary of our findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election,” the committee tweeted on Thursday night.