WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to recommend criminal contempt of Congress charges against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino Jr., two close allies of former President Donald J. Trump, after the pair defied subpoenas from the special committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
The overwhelmingly partisan vote of 220 to 203 sent contempt charges back to the Justice Department, calling for charges against Mr. Navarro, a former top White House adviser, and Mr. Scavino Jr., a former chief of assistant cabinet. It came as congressional investigators grew increasingly frustrated with some of Mr Trump’s staunchest supporters who refused to meet with the panel or turn over a single page of evidence to the committee as it digs into the worst assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812.
“We have two people who blatantly and brazenly challenge the authority of the United States House of Representatives,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland and a member of the committee. He said the men had ‘nothing but excuses for their non-compliance – excuses you wouldn’t accept from a teenager’.
Only two Republicans, Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both members of the investigating committee, voted for the charges. The rest of their party refused to support the move.
Dozens of Republicans lined the House floor Wednesday to demand a change of subject, trying to force a vote on immigration legislation in line with their efforts to use border issues as a political weapon against the Democrats ahead of the midterm legislative elections. .
After that failure, Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican and Minority Leader, attacked the investigation in a floor speech as a “political show trial” and accused the panel of intimidating the men and flouting their civil rights.
“Let’s be clear: the January 6 riot was a mistake. But make no mistake: The Democrats’ answer is also wrong,” McCarthy said, adding, “Democrats are using the power of the federal government to jail their political opponents.
Mr Raskin countered that Republicans were using “circus antics” to try to slow the vote with a “conga line” of lawmakers lining up on the floor as they skipped their committee assignments.
He accused Republicans of “slavishly” following Mr. Trump like “sycophants,” instead of joining efforts to investigate the deadly attack on the Capitol that left more than 150 police officers injured.
A contempt of Congress charge carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000. The House vote sent the case back to the Justice Department, which must now decide whether to charge the two men.
Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican from Indiana, said the stakes for a possible prison sentence were too high and noted that the vote would mean four Trump White House aides would face criminal removals by the committee.
“Mr. Scavino has two boys. He’s a good dad,” Mr Banks said.
Ms Cheney called the vote “sad” and “tragic” but said the committee had no other choice after some members of her own party gave up the truth for loyalty to Mr Trump.
“So many people in my own party refuse to face the constitutional crisis and the challenge we face,” she said.
The Jan. 6 committee laid out its case against Mr. Navarro and Mr. Scavino in a 34-page report that detailed how involved they were in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power even after his decisive defeat at the polls.
Mr. Navarro and Mr. Scavino are among a handful of Mr. Trump’s closest allies who have refused to sit down for interviews or hand over documents, even as more than 800 witnesses – including d other senior White House officials – complied with the committee’s requests.
Over the past week, the panel interviewed both Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, and her husband Jared Kushner, both senior White House advisers to Mr. Trump. Each sat down for lengthy interviews with the committee. Neither claimed executive privilege to avoid answering the committee’s questions.
Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the committee, contrasted their approach with the tough stance taken by Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro.
“The president’s own daughter complied with the committee’s wishes,” Mr Thompson said. “If her daughter complied with the wishes of the committee, everyone should do so.”
The committee said Navarro worked with Stephen K. Bannon, another Trump ally, to implement a plan to delay congressional certification of the election on Jan. 6, 2021, and ultimately to try to change the outcome of the election. Mr Navarro previously described the plan as the “Green Bay Sweep” and said more than 100 members of Congress had signed on to it.
Mr. Navarro also wrote a report alleging a stolen election, which was widely shared with others working to overturn the election. Mr. Navarro claimed that Mr. Trump “himself distributed Volume 1 of the report to all members of the House and Senate” by Jan. 6.
In his final statement, Navarro denied having anything to do with the violence, but continued to insist the 2020 election was rigged, while promoting his book, “In Trump Time”.
“A truly bipartisan committee would investigate why Nancy Pelosi, the Capitol Hill police and the Pentagon left the perimeter of the Capitol building insufficiently guarded and whether FBI informants played a significant role in inciting violence. and to the chaos that was, as I noted in ‘In Trump Time,’ the last outcome that Donald Trump and I wanted on Jan. 6,” he said. “We needed peace and quiet that day for the legal sweep of Green Bay to take place and thus get an accurate record of all legal votes.”
The Aftermath of Capitol Riot: Key Developments
Contempt charges. The House voted to recommend criminal contempt of Congress charges against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino Jr., two close allies of former President Donald J. Trump, after the pair defied special committee subpoenas tasked with investigating the January 6 attack.
As for Mr. Scavino, the committee said he worked with Mr. Trump to spread false information via social media regarding voter fraud and recruited a crowd in Washington on Jan. 6.
The committee said it had “reason to believe” that Mr. Scavino, whose subpoena was served at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s property in Palm Beach, Florida, was with Mr. Trump on January 5-6, 2021 when plans were discussed to “challenge, disrupt, or obstruct the official business of Congress.” He was also with Mr. Trump as people trapped inside the Capitol urgently called on the president to end the violence.
The committee also said it “had reason to believe that Mr. Scavino may have had advance warning of the potential for violence on January 6” because he was known to monitor pro-Trump websites where projects of violence were discussed.
The committee has requested Mr. Scavino’s testimony since September, when it issued him a subpoena. The panel said it had delayed Mr. Scavino’s testimony six times to try to accommodate him.
Mr. Scavino sued Verizon in January — initially, anonymously — seeking to stop the company from turning over his phone records to the committee.
His attorneys have argued that President Biden — who waived executive privilege for both men — lacks the authority to do so on the testimony of a former president’s top aides.
Bannon is the committee’s only target so far who has been charged with contempt of Congress charges for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
Mr Bannon, whose trial is tentatively scheduled for July, received a legal blow on Wednesday when a judge ruled he could not defend himself saying he was only following the advice of his lawyers when he refused to respond to the committee’s subpoena.
In December, the House recommended that Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s last White House chief of staff, be charged with criminal contempt of Congress for his refusal to appear for an interview with the committee. The Justice Department has yet to decide whether to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Meadows, who turned over thousands of documents to the committee before he stopped cooperating.
The committee also initially sought a contempt charge against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer who participated in Mr Trump’s frantic attempts to void the election. But before issuing a contempt recommendation to the full House, Mr. Clark’s attorney told the panel he would sit for another interview in which he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right. against self-incrimination. This effectively ended the potential contempt charge against him.
Alain Feuer contributed report.