By Sarah N. Lynch and Andrew Goudsward
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump adviser Peter Navarro will stand trial on Tuesday for two counts of contempt of Congress after he refused to testify or provide documents for the US congressional investigation into the attack on the Capitol.
Navarro, an old Chinese hawk who advised Republican Trump on trade issues and also served on the COVID-19 task force, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Jury selection in the trial begins on Tuesday. It is unclear exactly when the opening statements will take place.
The Democrat-led House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack wanted to ask him about a “Green Bay Sweep” plan to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory, which Navarro later described in a book he wrote afterwards. leave the White House.
The commission finally announced the findings of its investigation in December 2022, without getting a chance to interview Navarro.
Earlier this year, special counsel Jack Smith criminally charged Trump for attempting to reverse his 2020 election defeat, which Trump falsely claims was the result of fraud.
Navarro has maintained that his refusal to testify or provide documents required by a congressional subpoena was fueled by Trump’s appeal to executive privilege, a legal doctrine that protects certain White House communications from disclosure.
He failed to get Trump to testify and has produced only one letter written by Trump’s attorney following Navarro’s indictment, which alleged that Navarro was obligated to assert his privileges.
At a hearing on August 28, Navarro testified that Trump had made it “very clear” that he was not allowed to testify before Congress in a phone call that took place 11 days after he received the commission’s February 2022 subpoena.
He said he passed this message on to the committee.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who will preside over the trial, questioned why Navarro couldn’t articulate exactly what Trump said on the call.
“I still don’t know what the president said,” Mehta said at the Aug. 28 hearing, adding that the evidence supporting Navarro’s claims was “a pretty weak sauce.”
He ultimately rejected Navarro’s request that his call be cited at trial as evidence that Trump was invoking privilege, arguing that Navarro had failed to provide adequate details about the contents of the call.
Mehta also found that even if Navarro thought he was immune from witnesses, he still had to appear before the commission in response to the subpoena.
Any contempt Navarro faces could carry a prison sentence of a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year, as well as a fine of up to $100,000.
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who left the White House well before the Jan. 6 attack, was convicted of contempt for ignoring a July 2022 subpoena from Congress before the same committee.
He was sentenced to four months in prison in October, but his sentence was suspended pending appeal and has not yet been resolved.
(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)