With a prospective trial for former Trump adviser Peter Navarro looming, the Justice Department is pushing back against notions that Trump credibly asserted executive privilege covering Navarro’s testimony to the House committee that investigated the Capitol riot and that such a claim, if made, would’ve even exempted Navarro from the kind of testimony that was sought.
Navarro is currently facing allegations of contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify to that House panel. He’s the second close ally to Trump to be hit with such charges after Steve Bannon, who was already convicted by a jury, although he’s appealing. Among the complicating factors in Navarro’s case is that, as referenced in a new filing in court from the Justice Department, much of what the riot panel wanted to ask Navarro about — and about which the former adviser has been vocal — wasn’t even part of his official role working on Trump’s presidential staff. Navarro was an economic adviser and dealt with some of the response to COVID-19. Outside of these responsibilities, he also helped develop plans by which some of those around Trump hoped to stop Biden’s 2020 election win and secure another term for Donald.
A letter emerged from a Trump lawyer in late January of this year — after the riot panel itself was already defunct and obviously long after Trump himself left office — outlining ideas of executive privilege. The new filing from the Justice Department argued Navarro failed to even present key evidence of privilege claims in his earlier contacts with House investigators.
“The committee informed the Defendant that most of the information it was seeking did not concern communications he took in his capacity as presidential adviser at all, but instead related to matters undertaken in his personal capacity with persons outside the government,” the department added in a portion of the new filing highlighted by POLITICO. “Executive privilege, in this case, therefore could not justify a complete default on the Committee’s subpoena.”
Also among the complicating factors is that Biden himself, the sitting president, declined to invoke the legal concept of executive privilege in a bid to block Navarro from giving testimony, and there is a legal history of decisions on the matter by sitting presidents taking precedent over invocations from former occupants of the office — but per the arguments from the Justice Department, it doesn’t appear the dispute would necessarily need to get to that point. Elsewhere, Navarro was also recently ordered to provide hundreds of emails from a private account of his amid a civil lawsuit from the Justice Department that sought the messages under provisions of the Presidential Records Act, which outlines requirements for the preservation of various materials.