During a hearing this week in the ongoing criminal case against former Trump adviser Peter Navarro over his refusal to comply with the House committee investigating January 6, federal Judge Amit Mehta reportedly voiced frustrations with the lack of evidence presented by Navarro’s defense for claims of executive privilege.
“I’m asking for anything,” Mehta reportedly said. “You aren’t even telling me that [Trump] whispered in his ear. You’ve given me nothing.” Navarro is represented in this case by Stanley Woodward, who is also representing one of the members of the Oath Keepers who have been on trial for the serious federal criminal charge of seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol riot. Woodward claimed in court that Navarro’s reference to executive privilege in his defense traced back to communications with Trump — supposed communications that conveniently went unrecorded. Woodward also suggested Trump himself could verify Trump invoking executive privilege, although in general, the idea of Trump as a reliable source isn’t exactly the most well-supported.
“Why didn’t the prosecutors call the former president and ask him?” Woodward said in court. “Because they knew what he was going to say, your honor: ‘Yes.'” Raymond Hulser, a federal prosecutor, brought up what others have noted — it’s unclear if executive privilege, if invoked, would even apply. “We do not see an invocation,” Hulser said. “This subpoena was given to the defendant to talk about a subject matter that he did not handle in his official capacity.” Navarro was on staff at the White House in the time period under investigation, but his role in the Trump administration was related to economic policy. Separately, he was also involved in planning around the plots to secure another term for Trump even though the results showed he lost. The riot committee has long been investigating more than just the riot itself. Their area of interest also includes what led up to it, particularly Trump’s months-long effort to discredit the results from the 2020 election.
“You haven’t given me any evidence of a formal invocation… and you’re not prepared to make an evidentiary showing,” Mehta added, according to another source. If Navarro is eventually convicted of contempt for defying the riot committee, he could face jail-time. Steve Bannon, another Trump ally who refused to comply with the panel and was referred for prosecution, was sentenced to four months for contempt, although his sentence was put on hold amid the appeals process.