Navarro Is Sentenced to 4 Months in Prison for Stonewalling Congress in Jan. 6 Inquiry

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Peter Navarro, a trade adviser to former President Donald J. Trump who helped lay plans to keep Mr. Trump in office after the 2020 election, was sentenced on Thursday to four months in prison for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Mr. Navarro, 74, was found guilty in September of two misdemeanor counts of criminal contempt of Congress. The judge overseeing the case, Amit P. Mehta, rejected Mr. Navarro’s primary defense: that Mr. Trump had personally directed him not to cooperate with the subpoena, and that he believed he was shielded by executive privilege.

“The words executive privilege are not magical incantations,” Judge Mehta said. “It’s just not, it’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

In a testy exchange with Mr. Navarro’s lawyers beforehand, the judge singled out Mr. Navarro’s decision to flout the subpoena even as other aides to Mr. Trump negotiated whether to comply. “I have a great deal of respect for your client and what he’s achieved professionally, I do,” he added. “Which makes it all the more disappointing, the way he behaved.”

Mr. Navarro, a Harvard-trained economist and a vocal critic of China, served as a trade adviser to Mr. Trump before turning his focus to the pandemic response. After the 2020 election, however, he increasingly explored ways to subvert the outcome of the race and keep Mr. Trump in power.

Mr. Navarro, along with Stephen K. Bannon, a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump, devised a plan known as the Green Bay Sweep. Under the strategy, they would try to delay certification of the election by persuading Republican lawmakers to repeatedly challenge the results in various swing states and apply pressure on former Vice President Mike Pence to discredit the outcome. He also cast doubt on the results of the race, compiling instances of purported irregularities and issuing a three-part report claiming election fraud as part of what he described as an “immaculate deception.”

Those efforts ultimately elicited the attention of the House committee, which sought documents and testimony from Mr. Navarro. He repeatedly spurned those requests.

After voting to hold Mr. Navarro in contempt, the House referred the matter to the Justice Department, which obtained a grand jury indictment.

Prosecutors, arguing that Mr. Navarro had been deliberate in stonewalling the House committee, recommended on Thursday that he pay a $9,500 fine and spend six months in prison.

“He was happy to tell the world what he knew — but not Congress,” they wrote last week in a sentencing memo.

Mr. Navarro’s lawyers had asked for six months’ probation. His failure to engage with the House committee was essentially a misunderstanding, they contended, adding that Mr. Navarro had genuinely believed that Mr. Trump had invoked executive privilege.

“The only reason this court is compelled to deliberate any sentence for Dr. Navarro is because of the failure of political adversaries to communicate,” they wrote.

In asking for a more lenient sentence, his lawyers said the case had hinged on murky and unsettled legal questions about executive privilege and the complex separation of powers between Congress and the White House — questions that Judge Mehta had struggled to untangle over months of litigation before the trial.

“We’re but a pit stop in our journey to understanding what executive privilege means and how it should be invoked,” Stanley Woodward Jr., a lawyer for Mr. Navarro, said on Thursday.

In a contentious exchange with Judge Mehta, Mr. Woodward repeatedly predicted that an appeals court would side with Mr. Navarro on constitutional grounds.

“This case is far from over,” he said.

Mr. Navarro is the second high-ranking Trump aide who has faced penalties for contempt of Congress related to the Jan. 6 committee investigation.

Mr. Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, was convicted on nearly identical contempt charges in 2022 and sentenced to four months in prison. He remains free as his appeal moves forward.

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