March 29, 2022
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. congressional committee probing the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol voted unanimously on Monday to seek “contempt of Congress” charges against Peter Navarro, a former trade adviser to ex-President Donald Trump, and Daniel Scavino, who was a Trump deputy chief of staff.
The seven Democratic and two Republican members of the House of Representatives Select Committee approved a report recommending the criminal charge against Navarro and Scavino by a 9-0 vote. There was no immediate word on when the full, Democratic-led House would vote to approve the resolution.
That would pave the way for potential criminal charges by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The committee won a victory in federal court on Monday when a judge ruled that Trump “more likely than not” committed a felony by trying to pressure his vice president, Mike Pence, to obstruct Congress and overturn his election defeat. [nL2N2VV1K1
Navarro and Scavino have disregarded repeated calls to appear before the committee or provide information to the panel about events surrounding the attack.
“They are obligated to comply with our investigation. They have refused to do so. And that’s a crime,” Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee’s Democratic chair, said as he urged a vote in favor of contempt.
Trump repeated his false claim at a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, that his loss to Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 2020 election was the result of widespread fraud, and urged his supporters to march on the Capitol.
Four people died on the day of the riot, and one Capitol police officer who fought with rioters died the next day. Hundreds of police were injured during the onslaught.
Four officers have since taken their own lives.
Trump has urged associates not to cooperate with the committee, calling the Democratic-led investigation politically motivated and arguing that his communications are protected by executive privilege, although many legal experts have said that legal principle does not apply to former presidents.
Biden’s administration has denied executive privilege to the former Trump aides, saying it was not in the national interest.
Republican Representative Liz Cheney, the Select Committee’s vice chair, noted that more than a dozen former Trump White House officials have been among the hundreds of witnesses who have testified to the committee.
The committee said on Feb. 9 that it had subpoenaed Navarro, a key player in Trump’s effort to overturn his election defeat.
Navarro has said in media interviews and in his book that he helped coordinate an effort to halt certification of Biden’s victory and keep Trump in power.
Scavino was subpoenaed in September. The committee said he was a witness to Trump’s activities on the day of the assault.
“These men, Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro, are in contempt of Congress. I encourage my colleagues to support adoption of this report. I’m confident the House will adopt a resolution citing them for this crime. And I hope the Justice Department will move swiftly to hold them accountable,” Thompson said.
The House has already approved criminal referrals for two others who defied the panel’s subpoenas – Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, and Mark Meadows, who was one of Trump’s White House chiefs of staff.
Bannon faces federal charges for refusing to cooperate with the committee and declining to produce documents. He is scheduled for trial in July.
The House voted on Meadows in December, but the Justice Department has not yet said whether it will take action.
(This story corrects to say charges were recommended against Navarro and Scavino, removes reference to Meadows, in second paragraph)
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Scott Malone and Sandra Maler)