Ex-Trump aide Peter Navarro charged with contempt of Congress

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Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro speaks to reporters outside a federal court in Washington (AP)
Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro speaks to reporters outside a federal court in Washington (AP)

Former White House adviser Peter Navarro has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the attack on the US Capitol.

Navarro, 72, was charged with one contempt count for failing to appear for a deposition before the House committee and a second charge for failing to produce documents the committee requested.

Each charge carries a minimum sentence of a month in jail and a maximum of a year behind bars.

Navarro – who was a trade adviser for Donald Trump - is the second aide of the former president to be arrested after defying a legal summons from the congressional committee investigating the attack.

Steve Bannon, who served as chief strategist to Trump, faced contempt of Congress charges last November for also defying a subpoena.

During an initial court appearance, Navarro alleged that the Justice Department had committed “prosecutorial misconduct”. He said he was told he could not contact anyone after being arrested by an FBI agent at an airport on Friday.

He said he was put in handcuffs while trying to board a flight to Nashville, Tennessee, for a television appearance.

“Who are these people? This is not America,” Navarro said. “I was a distinguished public servant for four years!”

The Justice Department spared two other advisers including Mark Meadows - the ex-president’s chief of staff - and adviser Dan Scavino from criminal prosecution.

The decision to not prosecute the two men was revealed in a letter sent on Friday by a federal prosecutor to a lawyer for the House of Representatives.

The move was reported hours after the indictment of Navarro and a subsequent, fiery court appearance in which he vowed to contest the contempt of Congress charges.

The indictment against Navarro alleges that when summoned to appear before the committee for a deposition earlier this year, he refused to do so and instead told the panel that because Trump had invoked executive privilege, “my hands are tied”.

After committee staff told him they believed there were topics he could discuss without raising any executive privilege concerns, Navarro again refused, directing the committee to negotiate directly with lawyers for Trump, according to the indictment.

The committee went ahead with its scheduled deposition on March 2, but Navarro did not attend.

The panel investigating the riots is comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans and has managed to interview more than 1,000 witnesses. It is now preparing for a series of high-profile public hearings to begin next week.

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