Trump White House trade advisor Peter Navarro was arrested at an airport Friday on a federal indictment charging him with two counts of contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Navarro failed to appear to testify on March 2 in response to the subpoena from the House panel and also failed to produce by Feb. 23 the documents sought by that same subpoena, according to the indictment issued by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
The bombastic 72-year-old claimed at the time that former President Donald Trump had invoked executive privilege in connection with the probe, which supposedly barred Navarro from cooperating with the committee.
“My hands are tied,” Navarro wrote the committee on Feb. 27.
The House of Representatives in April voted to ask the U.S. Justice Department to criminally prosecute Navarro and Dan Scavino, another former Trump aide, for failing to comply with their subpoenas.
Navarro appeared Friday afternoon in the D.C. court, where he was released without bail after a hearing. During the proceeding, he railed against prosecutors for alleging colluding with a “partisan Congress” and the White House of Democratic President Joe Biden.
“Who are these people? This is not America,” Navarro said. “I was a distinguished public servant for four years.”
If convicted, Navarro faces a minimum possible sentence of 30 days in jail, and a maximum of one year, along with a fine of as much as $100,000, for each of the counts in the indictment.
On Monday, Navarro revealed that he had been issued another subpoena, from a federal grand jury in Washington, to testify on Thursday about events surrounding the Jan. 6 riot.
A Feb. 9 letter to Navarro from the House committee issued with the subpoena said the panel had reason to believe he had information relevant to the investigation in the riot and invasion of the Capitol, which disrupted for hours the certification by a joint session of Congress of the election of Biden.
The riot came after weeks of false claims by Trump and allies that Biden’s Electoral College victory was the result of widespread ballot fraud in several swing states.
The committee’s letter cited reports that Navarro worked with former Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon and others “to develop and implement a plan to delay Congress’s certification, and ultimately change the outcome, of … the November 2020 presidential election.”
Bannon himself was indicted on charges of contempt of Congress in November for failing to comply with a subpoena issued to him by the Jan. 6 committee.
At Navarro’s court hearing Friday, he complained to Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui that he had been arrested at an airport while waiting to board a flight to Nashville, where he was scheduled to make an appearance on a television show hosted by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
Navarro called the circumstances of that arrest an example of “prosecutorial misconduct.”
And he said the criminal case against him is a “preemptive strike by the prosecution against” a civil lawsuit he filed earlier this week against the House committee.
Navarro argues in his suit that the committee was improperly created and that its subpoenas, as a result, are unenforceable.
“The behavior of these people is unconscionable,” Navarro said, turning to point at the two federal prosecutors who handled his case, Amanda Vaugh and Elizabeth Aloi.
Prosecutors did not ask for Navarro to be jailed pending trial.
Faruqui ordered him to be released, with the condition that he checks in weekly with pre-trial services officials, and notify them of any plans he has to travel within the United States. Navarro will need permission to travel internationally.
Navarro is next due to appear in court on June 17.