Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro has been indicted on contempt of Congress charges, according to court documents unsealed Friday.
Navarro, 72, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday for contempt after snubbing a subpoena from the House committee investigating Jan. 6 seeking testimony and documents.
Court documents indicate that the government requested that Navarro’s indictment be sealed until his “arrest operation is executed.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office told NBC News that Navarro “is in custody pending the court appearance” later Friday.
“The events leading to the charges in the Indictment have been the subject of public scrutiny and concern,” federal prosecutors wrote in the motion to keep the case sealed until Navarro’s arrest. Public disclosure of the indictment, they wrote, “would give the Defendant the opportunity to flee, tamper with witnesses or evidence, or take other steps to interfere with the criminal case.”
Navarro was indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress, one for failing to provide papers, and another for failing to provide testimony.
The grand jury indictment says that Navarro is a “private citizen” and that he never appeared before the Select Committee or asked for an extension of time after he was subpoenaed.
“In fact, NAVARRO had not communicated with the Select Committee in any way after receiving the subpoena on February 9, 2022,” the indictment alleges, until Feb. 27, when he claimed his “hands are tied” because former President Donald Trump invoked executive privilege.
The House voted to refer Navarro to the Justice Department for contempt in April. The committee has said Navarro, a trade adviser during the Trump administration, played a key role “in the ex-president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.”
Navarro said executive privilege prevented him from talking to the committee, and that he would only do so if Trump gave him the green light to do so. The Jan. 6 committee has noted that Navarro has publicly boasted about his plans to upend the election results and that he published a book last year in which he referred to the plan as the “Green Bay Sweep.” Navarro also said publicly that Trump was “on board with the strategy.”
Navarro filed suit against the House committee earlier this week, arguing the subpoenas should be dismissed. In the same filing, he said he’d been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury this week and turn over documents related to the Jan. 6 riot, including “any communications with former President Trump and/or his counsel or representative.” He said the subpoena called for him to respond by Thursday.
Navarro was asked in an interview with MSNBC’s Ari Melber Thursday night if he’d complied with that subpoena, and he said he was in “negotiations” with DOJ and was “taking this very seriously.” He later said in the same interview he’d “responded to them and I expect responses back from them.”
He also told Melber he was concerned about going to prison, given that he’s 72 and “the average life span in America for an American male is 76 years old.”
“If I were to go to prison for a year, which is what the contempt of charge could do to me, that would be about a fourth of my remaining life,” Navarro said. Later in the interview, he told Melber he considers the executive privilege issues in his case to be extremely important. “This is why I’m fighting. This is why I’m willing to go to jail for this,” Navarro said.
Navarro is the second person to be charged with criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee.
Steve Bannon, a former Trump White House adviser, was indicted on a contempt of Congress charge in November after he refused to answer the House Select Committee’s questions. Unlike Navarro, Bannon was allowed to surrender. He’s pleaded not guilty.
The Justice Department has yet to act on two other referrals the House has sent involving other former top Trump staffers who’ve refused to cooperate with the panel’s investigation, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and deputy chief of staff — and former White House social media director — Dan Scavino. The Meadows referral was sent in December and Scavino’s was sent with Navarro’s in April.
Contempt of Congress is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.