Justice Department: Navarro contempt trial should be scheduled to help Jan. 6 committee

“As we all know, the trial of cases makes things very sharp,” Hulser said. “If there is a possibility that a person can be persuaded by the urgent nature of a criminal trial to say, ‘OK, I’ll go and answer questions. I will provide documents”, we would like to be a catalyst.

Hulser added that such cooperation would not nullify the criminal charges against Navarro.

But US District Court Judge Amit Mehta bristled at the idea that the criminal prosecution could be a tool to help the select committee’s investigation.

“I don’t want these procedures to be leverage in the way that American lawyers have suggested,” Mehta said.

Navarro was indicted earlier this year for refusing to comply with a subpoena from a select committee for documents and testimony related to his involvement in efforts to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election results. The panel wants to ask him about his involvement in strategizing with Republican members of Congress to challenge the many state electoral votes won by Joe Biden. Navarro claimed he could not testify because his conversations with Trump were subject to executive privilege — a prospect the House rejected when it voted to hold him in contempt of Congress in the spring.

The DOJ’s suggestion that the contempt trial could be a tool to compel Navarro’s testimony to the select committee was unusual. Typically, Congress has viewed criminal contempt remands as purely “punitive” — intended to punish those who defy its will, not ultimately obtain their testimony or records. When lawmakers want to compel the testimony of a recalcitrant witness, they have traditionally brought a civil lawsuit.

Prosecutors have already secured the conviction of another witness who refused to testify before the January 6 committee: Steve Bannon. A jury found the former Trump aide guilty in July and US District Court Judge Carl Nichols recently sentenced Bannon to four months in prison. Bannon is appealing his conviction and Nichols has agreed to delay his sentence while his appeal is pending.

Mehta ultimately rejected the government’s proposed timeline for Navarro’s trial and set the trial to begin on January 11, a week after the committee’s authorization expired.

Navarro’s lawyers urged the Justice Department and the select committee to contact Trump and see if he would waive any assertions of executive privilege to avoid questions about his ability to testify.

Bannon obtained a similar waiver from Trump on the eve of his trial, which prosecutors at the time suggested was a sneaky effort to derail the criminal case against him just before it went to a jury.


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