Jan. 6 Panel Holds Scavino, Navarro in Contempt of Congress

by Farnoush Amiri | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Former Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino were held in contempt of Congress on Wednesday for refusing to comply with subpoenas provided by a House committee investigation into the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Had done it.

The two men became the latest members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle to face legal threats as the select committee continues its more than nine-month-long investigation into the worst attack on the Capitol in more than 200 years.

The near-party-line 220-203 vote will send criminal referrals for Navarro and Scavino to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

The contempt action followed hours of raw debate on the floor of the House as Republicans stood with Trump and alleged that Democrats were trying to politicize the attack on the Capitol by his supporters.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy accused the January 6 committee of “criminalizing dissent,” defending Scavino as a “good guy” and harshly criticizing committee members, to name a few. “Let’s be honest, this is a political show trial,” McCarthy said.

Among the nine members of the January 6 panel, Democratic Representative Jamie Ruskin of Maryland noted that there are two Republicans on the committee, including Liz Cheney of Wyoming. He said the purpose of the floor vote was to make it clear that “open contempt and mockery of the process and to the rule of law” would not be permitted by the chamber.

“I mean, it’s amazing that they think they can get away with it,” the three-term lawmaker told reporters about Scavino and Navarro during the debate on Wednesday.

Cheney and Illinois Representative Adam Kizinger, who is also on the select committee, were the only Republicans who voted in favor of the contempt charges.

Chasing contempt charges with no new information for the January 6 committee — any prosecution could drag on for months or years — Wednesday’s vote was the latest attempt to show that witnesses will face consequences if they do not cooperate or at least do not appear for questioning. It is part of an effort to take back all legislative authority that was destroyed during the Trump era when congressional subpoenas were often avoided and ignored.

“This vote will tell us who is willing to show tolerance for the unbearable,” said Maryland Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Ruskin and other Democrats argued that Scavino and Navarro were among the very few to have turned down committee requests and subpoenas for information. The panel has so far interviewed over 800 witnesses.

Scavino has refused to testify before Congress about “what he knows about the most dangerous and widespread attack on the United States Congress since the War of 1812,” Ruskin said.

The committee says Scavino helped promote Trump’s false claims of stolen election and was with him on the day of the attack on the Capitol. As a result, he or she may have messages “relevant to videotaping and tweeting” that day.

A lawyer for Scavino did not return multiple messages from the Associated Press seeking comment.

Navarro, 72, a former White House business adviser, was summoned in early February for promoting false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election that the committee believes contributed to the attack.

Navarro declined to testify, citing executive privilege, saying the committee should “negotiate the matter with President Trump.” He continued, “If they waived the privilege, I would be happy to comply.”

But the Biden administration has already waived executive privileges for Navarro, Scavino and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying it was not appropriate or in the national interest to withhold their testimony.

Executive privilege was developed to protect the president’s ability to obtain explicit advice from his advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure, but it has limitations. Courts have traditionally left the question of whether to enforce the executive privilege occupied by the current White House. The Supreme Court earlier this year rejected Trump’s bid to withhold documents from the committee.

Voting will be held for the third time on Wednesday when the panel has sent allegations of contempt on the floor of the House. The first two referrals sent late last year were for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Trump aide Steve Bannon.

The contempt referral against Bannon resulted in an indictment, whose trial was due to begin in July. The Justice Department has been slow to decide whether to prosecute Meadows, much to the frustration of the committee.

“It is the committee’s expectation that they will present it to a grand jury,” committee chairman Rep. Benny Thompson told reporters on Tuesday. “Obviously, the Meadows case is still outstanding. We don’t really know where he is, other than that we’ve done our job.”

“The firewall goes above our point of view, and the DOJ uses its systems to take it from there,” he said.

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