Ex-Trump aide Navarro indicted; Meadows won’t be charged

Jun 3, 2022, 9:18 PM | Updated: 9:25 pm
FILE - White House social media director Dan Scavino, right, and White House chief of staff Mark Me...

FILE - White House social media director Dan Scavino, right, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, left, walk to board Marine One with President Donald Trump on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Washington. According to a person familiar with a letter sent by the Justice Department to a lawyer for the House of Representatives on Friday, June 3, 2022, the Justice Department has declined to charge former White House chief of staff Meadows and Scavino for contempt of Congress for their defiance of subpoenas in the Jan. 6 congressional investigation. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro has been indicted on charges that he refused to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the Justice Department spared two other advisers, including the ex-president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, from criminal prosecution.

The department’s decision to not prosecute Meadows and Dan Scavino, another adviser to former President Donald Trump, was revealed in a letter sent Friday by a federal prosecutor to a lawyer for the House of Representatives. The move was reported hours after the indictment of Navarro and a subsequent, fiery court appearance in which he vowed to contest the contempt of Congress charges.

The flurry of activity comes just days before the House committee leading the investigation into the riot at the Capitol holds a primetime hearing aimed at presenting the American public with evidence it has collected about how the assault unfolded. The split decisions show how the Justice Department has opted to evaluate on a case-by-case basis contempt referrals it has received from Congress rather than automatically pursue charges against each and every Trump aide who has resisted congressional subpoenas.

The committee’s leaders called the decision to not prosecute Meadows and Scavino “puzzling.” In a statement late Friday, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said: “We hope the Department provides greater clarity on this matter. … No one is above the law.”

Though the Justice Department has referred multiple Trump aides for potential prosecution for refusal to cooperate, Navarro is only the second to face criminal charges, following the indictment last fall of former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

Navarro, 72, was charged with one contempt count for failing to appear for a deposition before the House committee and a second charge for failing to produce documents the committee requested.

During an initial court appearance, he alleged that the Justice Department had committed “prosecutorial misconduct” and said he was told he could not contact anyone after being approached by an FBI agent at the airport Friday and put in handcuffs. He said he was arrested while trying to board a flight to Nashville, Tennessee for a television appearance.

“Who are these people? This is not America,” Navarro said. “I was a distinguished public servant for four years!”

Each charge carries a minimum sentence of a month in jail and a maximum of a year behind bars.

The Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland had been facing pressure to move more quickly to decide whether to prosecute other Trump aides who have similarly defied subpoenas from the House panel.

The New York Times first reported on the decision to not charge Meadows and Scavino. A person familiar with the decision who was not authorized to discuss it publicly confirmed it to The Associated Press on Friday. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, which made the decisions regarding each of the Trump aides, declined to comment Friday.

Meadows, a close Trump adviser seen by House investigators as a vital witness to key events, initially cooperated with the committee, turning over more than 2,000 text messages sent and received in the days leading up to and of the attack. But in December, Meadows informed the committee that he would not sit for a deposition. Scavino was held in contempt in April after declining to cooperate with Congress.

A lawyer for Meadows did not immediately return messages Friday night. Stan Brand, an attorney representing Scavino, said he had not yet received the letter from the U.S. attorney’s office, but he’d heard the news through a third party. “I’m grateful that the Justice Department exercised their discretion to decline prosecution,” Brand said.

The indictment against Navarro alleges that when summoned to appear before the committee for a deposition earlier this year, he refused to do so and instead told the panel that because Trump had invoked executive privilege, “my hands are tied.”

After committee staff told him they believed there were topics he could discuss without raising any executive privilege concerns, Navarro again refused, directing the committee to negotiate directly with lawyers for Trump, according to the indictment. The committee went ahead with its scheduled deposition on March 2, but Navarro did not attend.

The indictment, dated Thursday, came days after Navarro revealed in a court filing that he also had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury this week as part of the Justice Department’s sprawling probe into the insurrection. The subpoena to Navarro, a trade adviser to Trump, was the first known instance of prosecutors seeking testimony from someone who worked in the Trump White House as they investigate the attack.

“This was a preemptive strike by the prosecution against that lawsuit,” Navarro told Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui during his court appearance. “It simply flies in the face of good faith and due process.”

Navarro made the case in his lawsuit Tuesday that the House select committee investigating the attack is unlawful and therefore a subpoena it issued to him in February is unenforceable under law. He sued members of the committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the U.S. attorney in Washington, Matthew M. Graves, whose office is now handling the criminal case against him.

In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Navarro said the goal of his lawsuit is much broader than the subpoenas themselves, part of an effort to have “the Supreme Court address a number of issues that have come with the weaponization of Congress’ investigatory powers” since Trump entered office.

Members of the select committee sought testimony from Navarro about his efforts to help Trump overturn the 2020 presidential election, including a call trying to persuade state legislators to join their efforts.

The former economics professor was one of the White House staffers who promoted Trump’s baseless claims of mass voter fraud. Trump, in turn, promoted a lengthy report Navarro released in December 2020, which Navarro falsely claimed contained evidence of the alleged misconduct and election fraud “more than sufficient” to swing victory to his former boss.

Despite the opposition from several Trump allies, the Jan. 6 panel, comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans, has managed to interview more than 1,000 witnesses about the insurrection in the past 11 months and is now preparing for a series of public hearings to begin next week. Lawmakers on the panel hope the half-dozen hearings will be a high-profile airing of the causes and consequences of the domestic attack on the U.S. government.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The National Labor Relations Board's top prosecutor, Jennifer Abruzzo, poses for a portrait at Nati...
Associated Press

NLRB’s top prosecutor seeks big changes, faces uphill battle

As workers at major companies increasingly move to unionize, the political environment for labor couldn’t be more ripe. Perhaps nowhere is that more accurate than at the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that enforces the country’s labor laws and oversees union elections. In the past year, the Biden-appointed top prosecutor Jennifer Abruzzo has been […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Off-duty officer charged with assault at abortion protest

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island police officer accused of punching a woman at an abortion protest while he was off-duty has now been charged in connection with Friday’s demonstration at the State House. In a Saturday evening news release, state police said Providence patrolman Jeann Lugo, 35, was charged with simple assault and […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Iran launches rocket into space as nuclear talks to resume

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian state television said Sunday that Tehran had launched a solid-fueled rocket into space, drawing a rebuke from Washington ahead of the expected resumption of stalled talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers. It’s unclear when or where exactly the rocket was launched, but the announcement came after satellite […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Wallace Reid purchases fuel for the vehicle he drives to make a living using ride-share apps...
Associated Press

Greedflation: Is price-gouging helping fuel high inflation?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Furious about surging prices at the gasoline station and the supermarket, many consumers feel they know just where to cast blame: On greedy companies that relentlessly jack up prices and pocket the profits. Responding to that sentiment, the Democratic-led House of Representatives last month passed on a party-line vote — most Democrats […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Wallace Reid purchases fuel for the vehicle he drives to make a living using ride-share apps...
Associated Press

Did corporate greed fuel inflation? It’s not biggest culprit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Furious about surging prices at the gasoline station and the supermarket, many consumers feel they know just where to cast blame: On greedy companies that relentlessly jack up prices and pocket the profits. Responding to that sentiment, the Democratic-led House of Representatives last month passed on a party-line vote — most Democrats […]
8 hours ago
Gabby Giffords, center, the subject of the documentary film "Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down," poses...
Associated Press

Giffords documentary comes as gun debates stay center stage

In the two years documentary filmmakers shadowed former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the most jarring moment for them was in the kitchen of her Tucson, Arizona, home. As cameras were rolling, she and her husband, Sen. Mark Kelly, nonchalantly opened the freezer. Kelly grabbed a plastic container and revealed it holds the piece of Giffords’ skull […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Ex-Trump aide Navarro indicted; Meadows won’t be charged