WASHINGTON—A federal jury in Washington has convicted former Trump aide Peter Navarro of two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena.
The jury verdict in federal court came late in the afternoon of Sept. 7 after a few hours of deliberation. The trial began with jury selection on Sept. 5.
Mr. Navarro, who was then-President Donald Trump’s White House trade adviser, didn’t appear to react when the verdict was read.
Citing the presence of protesters outside the courthouse, Mr. Navarro’s attorney, Stanley Woodward of Brand Woodward Law in Washington, promptly moved for a mistrial before Judge Amit Mehta, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014.
A protester was “accosting” his client, Mr. Woodward told the judge.
The judge didn’t rule on the mistrial motion before the court was adjourned.
Protesters, both for and against Mr. Navarro, were present outside the courthouse after the verdict was delivered.
Mr. Navarro and his legal team held an impromptu press conference outside the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, during which protesters repeatedly heckled the speakers.
“This is a sad day for America, not because they were guilty verdicts—because I can’t come out and have an honest, decent conversation with the people of America,” Mr. Navarro said.
“People of America, I want you to understand that this is the problem we have right here, this kind of divide in our country between the ‘woke,’ Marxist left and everybody else here, and this is nuts.”
“This is a landmark case that’s bound for the Supreme Court,” he said. “It’s about the constitutional separation of powers that goes back to the days of George Washington when the legislative branch first began to try to meddle with the executive branch.”
“There are very good reasons why executive privilege is sacrosanct. It’s the mechanism by which effective presidential decision-making is made. So this case is not about me,” Mr. Navarro said.
One of his lawyers, John Rowley, also said this was “a landmark case” and added that it “won’t be decided here finally—it will be decided by the D.C. Court of Appeals.”
The court was wrong to block Mr. Navarro’s planned defense that his actions were covered by executive privilege because he was an adviser to the president of the United States, he said.
Executive privilege is necessary for a president and “part and parcel” of his office and “no express invocation of privilege is even necessary,” he said.
“We’re confident that the court of appeals will hold to that effect, and this case is not over by a longshot,” Mr. Rowley said.
Mr. Navarro said: “I said from the beginning I am willing to go to prison to settle this issue. I’m willing to do that, but I also know that the likelihood of me going to prison is relatively small because we are right on this issue.”
For serving his country, he got “a House of Representatives controlled by [former Speaker] Nancy Pelosi trying to put me in prison. Why? Because I’m a Trump guy,” he said.
Mr. Navarro said the prosecution claimed he was “responsible for the J6 insurrection, which is totally, totally without fact.”
“The judge called him on it but it still stood. I am not here convicted because of contempt of Congress. I’m here because of association with J6. That’s just wrong.”
Mr. Navarro said President Trump has been “a rock in terms of assistance. We talk when we need to talk. He will win the president’s race in 2024 in November.”
In response to a question from The Epoch Times, Mr. Navarro said he didn’t regret his decision not to appear in front of the select committee, which would have satisfied the requirement to appear, but at which he could also have invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“What this judgment means is another $1 million in legal fees,” he said, encouraging the public to visit a website to donate to his legal defense fund.
At press time, the fund had raised $463,792 out of a fundraising goal of $495,000.
Mr. Navarro was indicted for contempt of Congress in June 2022 for failing to comply with a subpoena from the Jan. 6 Select Committee that existed during the life of the previous Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
One count stemmed from Mr. Navarro’s failure to produce documents the select committee requested, the other, from his failure to appear to provide testimony at a deposition. He could be sentenced to as much as a year in prison and fined up to $100,000.
Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 12, 2024, at 2:30 p.m.
The committee was investigating the security breach at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which delayed congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election by a few hours. The panel reportedly wanted to ask Mr. Navarro about a “Green Bay Swamp” plan that he detailed in a book he wrote after leaving the Trump administration. The plan called for delaying Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the election.
The charges were referred to the U.S. Department of Justice following a series of party-line votes in the then Democrat-run House. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland decided to formally institute the charges that worked their way through the federal court system.
Critics have denounced the congressional committee as one-sided and politically motivated. The committee subpoenaed a litany of President Trump’s former White House aides, including Mr. Navarro and former strategist Steve Bannon.
A federal jury found Mr. Bannon guilty in July 2022 of one contempt count based on his refusal to appear for a deposition and another count related to his refusal to produce documents subpoenaed by the committee. He was sentenced to four months of incarceration and ordered to pay a $6,500 fine. Mr. Bannon is appealing and hasn’t begun serving his sentence.
Like others in the former president’s orbit, Mr. Navarro failed to comply with the subpoena, arguing that his communications with the former president and his staff were covered by executive privilege, which a president can invoke to shield official documents.
But Judge Mehta last week barred Mr. Navarro from telling the jury that the executive privilege claim was behind his decision not to comply with the subpoena.
Judge Mehta questioned why Mr. Navarro couldn’t explain precisely what the former president said during a February 2022 call during which Mr. Navarro claimed President Trump made clear he was invoking executive privilege.
“I still don’t know what the president said,” the judge said at the time. He added that the evidence backing the claims was “pretty weak sauce.”
This article by Matthew Vadum and Jackson Richman appeared Sept. 7, 2023, in The Epoch Times.
Photo: Former Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro