Peter Navarro begins serving a prison sentence after a historic contempt case



CNN

Peter NavarroA former White House aide to a former president Donald TrumpHe has filed a complaint at a federal prison in Miami, making history by becoming the first former White House official to be jailed for contempt of Congress.

On January 6, 2021, Navarro was sentenced to four months in prison for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol.

Before going to jail, Navarro spoke for 30 minutes at a gas station and called the case against him an “unprecedented attack on the constitutional separation of powers.”

He said the same legal tactics used against him would be used against Trump: “I'm angry — that's what I'm feeling right now.”

Navarro concluded: “God bless you all and see you on the other side.”

His conviction is a rare example of a member of Trump's inner circle being held accountable by the criminal justice system for resisting investigation. Navarro's imprisonment comes as Trump has yet to face criminal consequences for the various crimes he is accused of committing.

“It's historic, and it will be for future White House aides subpoenaed by Congress,” Stanley Brandt, a former House general counsel who now represents Navarro as one of his defense attorneys, said Monday.

Navarro's conviction for avoiding a House hearing will increase the pressure on lawmakers to cooperate in their investigations — under both parties' administrations.

For decades, the two branches of government have engaged in a game of chicken over the safeguards surrounding the presidency and how Congress can enforce its subpoena; Both sides have incentives to negotiate toward an agreement rather than test the grandiose questions of executive privilege and immunity in court.

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In this case, the Justice Department took the unusual step of impeaching the former White House counsel at the instigation of Congress after holding Navarro in criminal contempt and referring him to the Justice Department. Navarro's wholesale noncompliance with lawmakers' demands has distanced him from other former officials' frequent back-and-forth with lawmakers over participation in congressional investigations, prosecutors said.

Navarro made a last-ditch effort to seek Supreme Court intervention that would delay his surrender to prison.

“The prosecution of a senior presidential adviser conflicts with the constitutional freedom required by the doctrine of separation of powers and executive privilege,” his lawyers wrote to the high court. “Not once before Dr. Navarro's prosecution had the Justice Department ruled that a senior presidential adviser could be prosecuted for contempt of Congress for invoking executive privilege.”

His lawyers also called the mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Anne GorsuchAs administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1980s, he was impeached by the US House but never prosecuted.

Chief Justice John Roberts Rejected Navarro's request on Monday.

Navarro has never been able to show that the executive branch would have matched the information regarding the 2020 election.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Preloger countered with the justices, saying, “Even a successful offer cannot excuse an applicant's failure to comply with a subpoena.

While decades ago the US House arrested its own witnesses who defied their subpoenas, in recent years Congress has been able to seek subpoena enforcement only through lawsuits — which has become more difficult during the Trump presidency — and through judicial referrals. The DOJ has rarely agreed to prosecute a witness for contempt of Congress. In 2010, George W. A political appointee in the Bush administration was charged with contempt of Congress and later struck a plea deal to spend a day in jail.

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Although high-stakes conflicts over the participation of presidents and their advisers in congressional investigations preceded the Trump administration, Trump and his allies have taken the opposition to a new level during and after the Trump presidency.

Navarro was subpoenaed for documents and testimony related to efforts to subvert the 2020 election, which culminated in the looting of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Navarro rejected the requests, saying Trump had asserted privilege over the requests to be argued in a House committee. Talk directly with Trump to resolve that dispute. He was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress in June 2022 and was found guilty of both charges last September.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was prosecuted and convicted on similar charges stemming from his failure to comply with subpoenas from the House Jan. 6 committee. He was not at the White House during the House committee's investigation. The judge in his case, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, allowed Bannon to delay his four-month prison sentence.

Navarro is expected to spend 90 days behind bars, according to federal laws that allow some inmates to be released early.

Believing that he will be assigned to an air-conditioned dormitory reserved for “older” male inmates, Sam Mangel, a prison counselor, is hired by Navarro to prepare for his incarceration.

The shelter houses 80 men in bunk beds, Mangel told CNN, and “there will be no privacy in the shelter.”

“It can be scary and intimidating. But he's going to be completely safe,” Mangal said. Navarro will have access to televisions set up in the jail that will allow him to follow the news, and he'll be able to use email and make phone calls.

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It is one of the oldest prisons in the country and is located next to the city zoo.

“You can't just hear the lions…you can hear the roar of the lions every morning,” Mangal said.

This story and topic have been updated with additional improvements.

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