Ex-Trump Adviser Navarro Pleads Not Guilty To Contempt Of Congress Charges

WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) – Former Republican President Donald Trump’s adviser Peter Navarro pleaded not guilty on Friday to two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress, after he refused to provide testimony or documents to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee investigating the January 2021 attack at the Capitol.

Navarro, who appeared in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for his arraignment on Friday, wrote a book after he left the White House in which he talked about a plan to delay Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory known as “Green Bay Sweep,” according to the indictment.

He described the plan as the “last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats’ jaws of deceit,” the indictment says.

His book will officially be released in September, one of his attorneys said on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who is also presiding over the upcoming high-profile trial this fall of members of the far-right Oath Keepers group facing seditious conspiracy charges, said on Friday that his schedule is a “mess” and the earliest date he could set for Navarro’s trial is Nov. 17.

The U.S. House Select Committee, which held its third public hearing on Thursday afternoon to reveal some of the findings from its investigation, subpoenaed Navarro in February seeking both documents and testimony. 

However, he failed to appear for his deposition or communicate in any way with the panel after receiving the subpoena, the indictment against him alleges. 

He later told the committee he was unable to comply with its demands, saying Trump had invoked executive privilege, a legal doctrine that shields certain White House communications from disclosure, and that this privilege “is not mine to waive.”

Navarro, a longtime China hawk who advised Trump on trade issues and also served on the COVID-19 task force, had been representing himself since he was criminally charged. 

But after Friday’s hearing, he told reporters outside the courthouse that “being put in leg irons and having people wanting to put me in prison” had changed his view about needing legal representation.

John Rowley, one of his new attorneys, told reporters they intend to “aggressively defend him” in the case.

Prior to being indicted, Navarro filed a civil lawsuit against the committee, arguing that the case against him stemmed from collusion between the Justice Department, Congress and the Biden White House.

Rowley said for now they had moved to dismiss the civil case, but they could refile it at a future date.

Since his arrest, which occurred while he was boarding a plane at a nearby airport, Navarro has accused the Justice Department of mistreatment, saying he was placed in leg irons, denied access to food or water, and was forbidden from calling an attorney. 

Prosecutors have denied he was mistreated in any way.

Rowley told reporters they intend to further probe the circumstances surrounding their client’s arrest, and why he was treated like a dangerous criminal over mere “process crimes.”

“We’ve never seen anything as outrageous as what happened to Mr. Navarro,” he said.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Daniel Wallis)

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