The criminal trial of Peter Navarro, a trade adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, started on Wednesday with the Justice Department arguing that Navarro willfully disregarded lawmakers’ investigation into the January 6 Capitol attack. Government lawyers emphasized that the case against Navarro was straightforward: Did he show contempt for Congress when he ignored the committee’s subpoena for documents and testimony? Prosecutors highlighted the importance of the case, stating that no one is above the law.
Navarro’s defense team portrayed him as a professional policy adviser who was entangled in legal negotiations with the House committee. They argued that the Justice Department exaggerated Navarro’s role and criticized the prosecution’s opening statement as theatrical. Throughout the trial, Navarro has stood behind his lawyers’ table, listening intently.
Navarro, 74, is facing two counts of contempt of Congress, making him the second top official of the Trump administration to face criminal charges related to the former president’s attempts to retain power. After the 2020 election, Navarro focused on election law, devising strategies to delay Congress’s certification of the election results. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to one year in jail and fined up to $100,000 for each count.
Prosecutors called several staff members of the Jan. 6 committee as witnesses, who assisted in drafting and serving the subpoena to Navarro. The committee wanted to interview Navarro under oath regarding his efforts to overturn the election, particularly his report on voter fraud and his published memoir outlining a strategy to reject the election results in swing states.
Navarro and his defense were unable to use their main argument that Trump instructed him to ignore the subpoena and claimed executive privilege. A judge ruled against Navarro, stating that there was no clear evidence of communication between Navarro and Trump regarding the subpoena. As a result, Navarro’s lawyers were left with a more indirect defense, arguing that the House committee did not follow up with Navarro after he referred them to Trump.
The trial will continue as the prosecution presents its case against Navarro.