Jan. 6 Panel Argues for Contempt Charges for Former Trump Aides – The New York Times


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The House committee investigating the Capitol riot issued a report on Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino Jr.’s roles in efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s election loss.
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WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol released a report on Sunday laying out reasons to charge two allies of former President Donald J. Trump with criminal contempt of Congress for their participation in efforts to overturn the 2020 election and their subsequent refusal to comply with the panel’s subpoenas.
In a 34-page report, the panel argued that the allies — Peter Navarro, a former White House adviser, and Dan Scavino Jr., a former deputy chief of staff — were closely involved in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power even after he lost decisively at the polls.
The committee is set to hold a public vote on whether to recommend the charges on Monday. A contempt of Congress charge carries a penalty of up to a year in jail. A recommendation from the panel would send the matter to the full House, which would then have to vote to refer the charge to the Justice Department.
Mr. Navarro and Mr. Scavino are among a handful of Mr. Trump’s closest allies who have refused to sit for interviews or turn over documents even as more than 750 witnesses — including other top White House officials — have complied with the committee’s requests.
The committee said Mr. Navarro had worked with Stephen K. Bannon, another Trump ally, to carry out a plan to delay Congress’s certification of the election on Jan. 6, 2021, and ultimately change the election’s outcome. Mr. Navarro described this plan as the “Green Bay Sweep” and said more than 100 members of Congress had signed on to it.
Mr. Navarro also wrote a report alleging a stolen election, which was widely shared with others working to overturn the election. Mr. Navarro claimed that Mr. Trump “himself had distributed Volume 1 of the report to every member of the House and Senate” before Jan. 6.
On Jan. 2, 2021, Mr. Navarro joined a call Trump lawyers and allies held with hundreds of state legislators. According to the committee, Mr. Navarro told the state legislators during the call, “Your job, I believe, is to take action, action, action,” adding, “The situation is dire.”
The committee issued a subpoena in February to Mr. Navarro, but he said he would not comply, citing Mr. Trump’s invocation of executive privilege over White House materials from his time in office.
When committee staff members emailed him seeking his lawyer’s name, he replied: “No counsel. Executive privilege.”
In a statement emailed Sunday night, Mr. Navarro said: “My position remains this is not my executive privilege to waive and the committee should negotiate this matter with President Trump. If he waives the privilege, I will be happy to comply.”
But the committee argues that Mr. Navarro’s work trying to overturn the election was not a part of his official duties and not covered by executive privilege.
“Federal law did not allow Mr. Navarro to use his official office to attempt to affect the outcome of an election,” the committee’s report says. When Mr. Navarro engaged in these activities, and other activities described below, he was acting outside the scope of his official duties.”
As for Mr. Scavino, the committee said he had worked with Mr. Trump to spread false information via social media regarding election fraud and had recruited a crowd to Washington on Jan. 6.
The committee said it had “reason to believe” Mr. Scavino, whose subpoena was served at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s property in Palm Beach, Fla., was with Mr. Trump on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 in 2021 when plans were discussed to “challenge, disrupt, or impede the official congressional proceedings.” He also was with Mr. Trump while people trapped inside the Capitol were urgently calling on the president to halt the violence.
The committee also said it “has reason to believe that Mr. Scavino may have had advance warning about the potential for violence on Jan. 6,” because he was known to monitor pro-Trump websites where plans to commit violence were discussed.
On Dec. 19, 2020, the same day Mr. Trump tweeted: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th … Be there, will be wild!,” users of TheDonald.win, a website for Trump supporters, began sharing “specific techniques, tactics, and procedures for the assault on the Capitol,” the committee said. The “ensuing weeks of communications on the site included information on how to use a flagpole as a weapon, how to smuggle firearms into DC, measurements for a guillotine, and maps of the tunnel systems under the Capitol building.”
On Jan. 5, 2021, a user on TheDonald.win encouraged Mr. Trump’s supporters to “be prepared to secure the capitol building,” claiming that “there will be plenty of ex military to guide you.”
Judge says Trump likely committed crimes. In a court filing in a civil case, the Jan. 6 House committee laid out the crimes it believed former President Donald J. Trump might have committed. The federal judge assigned to the case ruled that Mr. Trump most likely committed felonies in trying to overturn the 2020 election.
Virginia Thomas’s text messages. In the weeks before the Capitol riot, Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent several texts imploring Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, to take steps to overturn the election. The Jan. 6 House committee is likely to seek an interview with Ms. Thomas, said those familiar with the matter.
Potential contempt charges. The Jan. 6 House committee released a report making the case to charge Peter Navarro, a former White House adviser, and Dan Scavino Jr., a former deputy chief of staff, for refusing to comply with its subpoenas.
The committee has sought Mr. Scavino’s testimony since September, when it issued him a subpoena. The panel said it delayed Mr. Scavino’s deposition six times to try to accommodate him.
“Despite all these extensions, to date, Mr. Scavino has not produced a single document, nor has he appeared for testimony,” the committee wrote.
Mr. Scavino sued Verizon in January, seeking to stop the company from turning over his phone records to the committee.
Mr. Scavino argues the documents he possesses that the committee seeks are already at the National Archives, and his lawyers have claimed that President Biden does not have the authority to waive executive privilege over the testimony of a former president’s senior aide.
“We are unaware of any legal authority that bestows upon the incumbent president the final decision as to whether executive privilege may be asserted as to the congressional testimony of the close aides of a former president,” the lawyers, Stan M. Brand and Stanley E. Woodward Jr., wrote Friday in a letter to Jonathan C. Su, deputy counsel to Mr. Biden.
So far, Mr. Bannon is the only target of the committee who has been indicted on contempt of Congress charges for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
That case, which is tentatively set to go to trial in July, has been bogged down in arguments over whether Mr. Bannon can defend himself by claiming he was merely following the advice of his lawyers when he declined to respond to the committee’s subpoena.
In December, the House recommended that Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff, face criminal contempt of Congress charges for his own refusal to sit for an interview with the committee. The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Meadows, who turned over thousands of documents to the committee before he stopped cooperating.
The committee also initially sought a contempt charge against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer who participated in Mr. Trump’s frenzied attempts to overturn the election. But before the committee forwarded a contempt recommendation to the full House, Mr. Clark’s lawyer let the panel know he would sit for another interview in which he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. That effectively ended the potential contempt charge against him.
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