The House voted on Wednesday to hold two of Donald Trump’s top advisers – Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino – in criminal contempt of Congress for their months-long refusal to comply with subpoenas issued by the House Select Committee investigating the attack. of the Capitol on January 6.
Approval of the contempt resolution, by a vote of 220 to 203, puts the two Trump aides on the path to criminal prosecution by the Justice Department as the panel steps up its investigation into whether Trump oversaw a criminal plot to nullify the 2020 election.
Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee that introduced the House contempt resolution, said the select committee needed the House to move the measure forward to reaffirm the consequences for defying the House floor. January 6 survey.
Citing a federal judge’s ruling last week that Trump “probably” committed crimes to return to the Oval Office for a second term, Raskin told the House the panel wanted Navarro and Scavino’s cooperation because they had pledged to try to overturn an election.
But having refused to comply with their subpoenas in any form, Raskin said that “these two witnesses acted in defiance of Congress and the American people; we must hold them in defiance of Congress and the American people.”
House-approved contempt citations now head to the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Matthew Graves, who is required by law to assess the prosecution and present the case to a grand jury. federal.
If the Justice Department secures a conviction against the Trump aides, the consequences could mean up to a year in federal prison, $100,000 in fines, or both — though that wouldn’t require them to comply, and pursuing the misdemeanor charge could take months.
Navarro and Scavino’s challenge to appear meant the select committee was ultimately unable to obtain information directly from them about Trump’s illegal scheme to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to arrest the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on January 6.
But the panel quietly amassed deep insights into their roles in efforts to return Trump to power in recent weeks, and senior officials decided they could pursue the investigation without hearing from the two aides, sources familiar with the matter said. investigation.
The select committee’s determination that Navarro and Scavino’s cooperation was no longer essential came when he saw he could fill in the gaps for others, the sources said, and led to the decision to halt the talks. negotiations for their cooperation.
The eventual decision to walk away from the talks reflected the panel’s belief that it was not worth it – the probe is under time pressure to complete its work before the November midterms – to continue their testimony for potentially marginal gain, the sources said.
House investigators had sought the cooperation of Navarro, a former senior Trump trade policy adviser who became entangled in efforts to reverse Trump’s election defeat, for about a month until he became Obviously they weren’t making any progress.
The select committee issued a subpoena to Navarro because he helped devise — by his own admission on MSNBC and elsewhere — the plan for Pence to prevent Biden’s certification from taking place in a ‘war room’ Trump based at the Willard Hotel in Washington.
Navarro also worked with the Trump campaign’s legal team to pressure lawmakers in battleground states Biden won to decertify the results and instead send Trump voter lists for certification by the Congress during the joint session on 6 January.
But when that plan began to go awry, Navarro encouraged Mark Meadows, then Trump’s White House chief of staff, to call political operative Roger Stone to discuss Jan. 6, the panel said in its report on the contempt of Congress published last week.
Trump’s former aide, however, told the select committee — without providing any evidence — that the former president asserted executive privilege over the contents of his subpoena and therefore would not provide any documents or testimony.
Along with Scavino, the select committee first appointed Trump’s former deputy White House chief of staff for communications in September last year because he had attended several meetings with Trump where questions of voter fraud were discussed, the panel said.
But after the panel granted Scavino six extensions that pushed his subpoena deadlines from October 2021 to February 2022, the former Trump aide also told House investigators he wouldn’t comply either. to the order because Trump had invoked executive privilege.
The select committee rejected those executive privilege arguments, saying neither Navarro nor Scavino had grounds to fully defy the subpoenas because either Trump did not formally invoke the protections or because Biden ultimately waived them. .
At last week’s business meeting, where the select committee voted unanimously to recommend the entire House condemn Navarro and Scavino in defiance of Congress, Raskin emotionally chastised the alleged arguments of the executive privilege.
“This is America, and there is no executive privilege here for presidents, let alone qualified advisers, to plan coups and stage insurgencies against popular government in the popular constitution, then hide the evidence of their crimes.
“These two men,” Raskin said of Navarro and Scavino, “outrage Congress and we must say so, both for their brazen disregard for their duties and for our laws and institutions.”
Attending an event featuring Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night, Navarro made a point of appearing distant from his impending Justice Department dismissal. “Oh that vote,” Navarro said dismissively, The Washington Post reported.