Ex-Trump adviser Peter Navarro to begin four-month jail sentence for contempt of Congress

Peter Navarro, White House trade advisor to former US President Donald Trump, speaks to the press at the Country Mall Plaza before reporting to the Federal Correctional Institution, in Miami, Florida on 19 March 2024 (AFP via Getty)
Peter Navarro, White House trade advisor to former US President Donald Trump, speaks to the press at the Country Mall Plaza before reporting to the Federal Correctional Institution, in Miami, Florida on 19 March 2024 (AFP via Getty)

Nearly four years after he tried to help former president Donald Trump unlawfully remain in office after losing the 2020 election, ex-White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Navarro surrendered on Tuesday to authorities at a prison facility near Miami, Florida to begin a four-month jail sentence, less than a day after the Supreme Court denied his last-ditch bid to stay his sentence pending appeal of his conviction on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress.

In a bizarre press conference held in a parking lot across from the prison facility, Navarro hurled invective at the judges who’d heard his case and rejected his prior appeals, accusing them of acting as Democratic Party agents because they were appointed by or were supporters of former president Barack Obama. He also attacked jurors in Washington DC, calling them biased against him because of the low number of people there who’d voted for former president Donald Trump.

“So I get in front of that jury. The judge had already stripped me of the defences and I’m facing that jury and by the way, the judge who stripped me... he got appointed to the bench by Barack Obama,” he said. “Democrat, Democrat, Democrat from start to finish. This is the partisan weaponization of our judicial system”.

Navarro told reporters he would “walk proudly” into the facility and “do [his] time” but claimed he was the only person going there who had been convicted of a misdemeanour.

“I will gather strength from this,” he said.

After he took several questions from reporters, he walked towards a car with his attorneys, asking photographers gathered there to give him space. He then got into the vehicle, which drove towards the prison facility.

The former Trump adviser was charged in late 2022 with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, for what federal prosecutors argued was his abject defiance of the House select committee’s attempts to obtain evidence as part of its investigation into Mr Trump’s attempts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

On 7 September last year, a jury found him guilty on both counts after fewer than four hours of deliberation following a two-day trial during which the ex-Trump aide’s defence team presented no witnesses of their own.

Navarro had asked the Supreme Court to allow him to remain free while he appeals decisions by US District Judge Amit Mehta and a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, both of whom had previously rejected Navarro’s blanket assertions of executive privilege under the former president in his defence against testifying to the committee. Navarro claimed that the former president instructed him to assert executive privilege, but Mr Trump never communicated that to the January 6 committee or in federal court.

In a brief opinion issued from his chambers, Chief Justice John Roberts – the justice responsible for appeals from Washington DC federal courts – said Navarro had not established that he was entitled to remain free under provisions of the Bail Reform Act while he continued to appeal his conviction on the grounds that he should have been permitted to argue that he was following orders from the former president when he defied a subpoena from the House January 6 select committee.

“The Court of Appeals disposed of the proceeding on the ground that Navarro ‘forfeited’ any argument in this release proceeding challenging the District Court’s conclusion that ‘executive privilege was not invoked’, ‘forfeited any challenge’ to the conclusion that relief would not be required in any event because of the qualified nature of executive privilege, and ‘forfeited any challenge’ to the conclusion that apart from executive privilege, he was still obligated to appear before Congress and answer questions seeking information outside the scope of the asserted privilege,” he wrote.

The Chief Justice added that he saw “no basis to disagree with the determination that Navarro forfeited those arguments in the release proceeding, which is distinct from his pending appeal on the merits”.

Navarro is the first former Trump White House staffer to see the inside of a jail cell for any crime related to the 6 January 2021 attack on the Capitol.

With additional reporting by Alex Woodward