Peter Navarro, an economic adviser to former President Donald Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Justice Department announced Friday.
Navarro, 72, was charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents despite a subpoena from the committee, the Justice Department said.
Each count carries a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of up to $100,000.
Navarro was taken into federal custody on Friday morning and made his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that afternoon.
Following a lengthy court appearance, during which Navarro represented himself, the former member of the Trump administration spoke to reporters.
“I’m representing myself pro se because I do not want to be dragged down into the muck of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of my retirement savings,” Navarro said.
Moments earlier, Navarro, who has filed a civil lawsuit challenging the authority of the Jan. 6 committee to compel him to testify, said that he would fund his legal defense through sales of his new book, “Taking Back Trump’s America.”
“I need everybody in America to buy that book on Amazon,” Navarro said.
During the court appearance, U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui cautioned Navarro about the risks of representing himself and added that any comments he made to the media could be used against him when his case is heard later this month.
“Every time you speak, just remember, it could be something that’s used against you in court,” Faruqui said. “Please don’t miss the trees for the forest here.”
The Jan. 6 committee voted unanimously in late March to recommend that Navarro, along with fellow former Trump White House aide Dan Scavino Jr., be held in criminal contempt of Congress after both men failed to comply with subpoenas compelling them to provide the panel with testimony and documents detailing their roles in Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The full House of Representatives voted to approve the committee’s recommendation in early April, making Navarro and Scavino the third and fourth former Trump advisers to be referred to the Justice Department for criminal charges in connection with the investigation into the attack on the Capitol.
Navarro, however, is only the second former Trump White House official to be hit with criminal charges as a result of those referrals. The first was former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was indicted by a federal grand jury for defying the committee’s subpoena in November 2021.
Navarro has also attempted to use Trump’s assertions of executive privilege as a shield against testifying before the select committee, despite having been outspoken about his role in planning to help subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The former White House trade adviser has said that he worked with Bannon and other allies of Trump to develop a plan they called the “Green Bay Sweep” to delay the formal count of the Electoral College results by Congress to buy time to change the outcome.
Navarro even detailed the so-called operation in his book “In Trump Time,” published in November.
Just days before the grand jury indicted Navarro, he revealed that he’d also recently received a subpoena from the Justice Department in its investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. On Tuesday, Navarro filed a lawsuit against both the DOJ and the Jan. 6 committee to challenge the subpoenas, reiterating his claims of executive privilege.
“I’m putting, literally, my life on the line,” Navarro told MSNBC’s Ari Melber during an interview Thursday night. Navarro said he was willing to risk going to jail to stand up for the principle of executive privilege which, he claims, is being attacked in a “fanciful and absurd way.”
President Biden has declined to assert executive privilege to shield Navarro from testifying before the Jan. 6 committee. While Trump has tried, unsuccessfully, to claim executive privilege over hundreds of documents as well as the testimony of certain witnesses sought by the committee, the panel has said the former president has made no such claim for Navarro.