Former President Donald Trump’s adviser, Peter Navarro, arrived at court on Tuesday to face trial on two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress. These charges stem from his refusal to testify or provide documents during the congressional investigation into the Capitol attack of 2021.
Navarro, known for his strong stance on China and his role advising President Trump on trade, as well as serving on the White House COVID-19 task force, has pleaded not guilty to these charges.
The trial commenced with the process of jury selection on Tuesday, and the schedule for opening statements remains uncertain.
Upon his arrival at court, Navarro framed the case as a matter of executive privilege and the constitutional separation of powers. He also took the opportunity to make an appeal for donations to support his legal defense fund, emphasizing that he is the first senior White House adviser to face such charges.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives committee, investigating the events of January 6, 2021, sought to question Navarro regarding a plan known as the “Green Bay Sweep.” This plan aimed to delay the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory, and Navarro detailed it in a book he authored after leaving the White House. However, the committee released its findings in December 2022 without interviewing Navarro.
Earlier this year, Special Counsel Jack Smith brought criminal charges against former President Trump for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results based on false claims of fraud.
Navarro has consistently argued that his refusal to testify or provide documents, as demanded by a congressional subpoena, was based on Trump’s assertion of executive privilege—a legal doctrine that shields specific White House communications from disclosure. Although Navarro was unable to secure Trump’s testimony, he did produce a single letter written by Trump’s attorney after Navarro’s indictment, which claimed Navarro had an obligation to assert privilege.
During a hearing on August 28, Navarro testified that Trump had made it “very clear” he should not testify before Congress in a phone call that occurred 11 days after he received the committee’s February 2022 subpoena. He conveyed this message to the committee.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who presides over the trial, expressed skepticism about Navarro’s inability to provide precise details of what Trump said during the call. Mehta found the evidence supporting Navarro’s claims to be weak and rejected Navarro’s request to present the phone call as evidence during the trial. Mehta also ruled that even if Navarro believed he was immune from testifying, he still had an obligation to appear before the committee in response to the subpoena.
Each contempt count that Navarro faces carries the potential for a minimum sentence of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, along with a fine of up to $100,000. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who had left the White House well before the January 6 attack, was convicted on contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena before the same committee in July 2022. Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison in October, but his sentence remains pending appeal and has not been finalized.