Peter Navarro, a White House adviser to former President Donald J. Trump who defied a subpoena to supply information to the House committee investigating the Capitol attack, was indicted on Friday by a federal grand jury on charges of contempt of Congress.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Navarro, 72, failed to seem for a deposition or provide documents to congressional investigators in response to a subpoena issued by the House committee on Feb. 9. The indictment charges him with two counts of contempt that every carry a maximum sentence of a 12 months in prison, in addition to a tremendous of as much as $100,000.
Mr. Navarro, who was arrested and brought into federal custody, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. He appeared in Federal District Court in Washington on Friday afternoon, speaking on his own behalf and telling a federal magistrate judge that the congressional subpoena he was served with was “illegal” and “unenforceable.”
In court, he solid himself as a victim of an unfair system run by Democrats bent on destroying him and Mr. Trump.
“There are greater things at play than whether I am going to prison,” Mr. Navarro said. “And that’s why I’m standing here.”
He also complained that although he lives near F.B.I. headquarters, federal agents arrested him on the door of an airplane as he was on his solution to Nashville.
“This is just not the best way that America is alleged to function,” he went on, adding, “They’re playing hardball.”
A former White House trade adviser who undertook extensive efforts to maintain Mr. Trump in office after the 2020 election, Mr. Navarro is the second high-ranking former presidential aide to be charged with contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Stephen K. Bannon, a former top aide to Mr. Trump, was indicted in November on similar charges.
The indictment against Mr. Navarro got here nearly two months after the House voted mostly along party lines to recommend criminal charges against him. The identical vote also beneficial a contempt indictment against one other of Mr. Trump’s top aides, Dan Scavino Jr.
The House has also beneficial that Mark Meadows, the previous White House chief of staff, be charged with contempt. However the Justice Department has yet to take motion on the criminal referrals against Mr. Meadows or Mr. Scavino.
The House subpoena that Mr. Navarro received sought documents and testimony about an effort to overturn the election that he had billed because the “Green Bay Sweep.” The plan called for lawmakers in key swing states to team with Republican members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to reject the outcomes that showed Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won the election with a view to give Mr. Trump the victory.
The subpoena also mentioned a call that Mr. Navarro participated in with Mr. Trump and his lawyers on Jan. 2, 2021, through which they attempted to influence a whole lot of state lawmakers to affix the trouble.
Mr. Navarro also wrote a 36-page report claiming election fraud as a part of what he called an “immaculate deception” that he said he made sure was distributed to Republican members of Congress.
There isn’t a evidence of widespread fraud within the 2020 election, and the Jan. 6 committee has described the claims in Mr. Navarro’s report as having been “discredited in public reporting, by state officials and courts.”
The indictment comes days after Mr. Navarro filed a lawsuit against the House committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, through which he questioned the authority and validity of the inquiry.
Within the lawsuit, Mr. Navarro also revealed that he had recently received one other subpoena, this one from a federal grand jury in Washington. That subpoena sought documents from him related to any communications he can have had with Mr. Trump or his lawyers.
Mr. Navarro has claimed that because Mr. Trump invoked executive privilege to bar the disclosure of knowledge requested by the Jan. 6 investigators, he’s prevented from complying with the subpoena. Prosecutors were almost definitely involved in how closely Mr. Navarro was in contact with the previous president or his lawyers with a view to assess that defense against the contempt of Congress charge.
“The chief privilege invoked by President Trump is just not mine to waive,” Mr. Navarro has repeatedly said.
Mr. Bannon has also sought to argue that he doesn’t need to comply together with his own subpoena due to Mr. Trump’s claims of executive privilege. A trial in his case is tentatively scheduled for July.
Mr. Bannon is arguing that the select committee is just not a legitimate investigative body but a politically motivated one, citing the undeniable fact that two of its members have written books that presuppose who’s responsible for the Capitol riot regardless that the inquiry has not ended.
While contempt of Congress charges are rarely brought, the cases filed against Mr. Navarro and Mr. Bannon suggest that the Justice Department has been willing to take a troublesome stance against not less than a few of Mr. Trump’s former aides who’ve stonewalled the House committee’s efforts.
The costs against Mr. Navarro come at a politically sensitive moment: one week before the committee is poised to start a series of high-profile hearings on its findings.
Mr. Navarro has taken an equally aggressive stance toward the committee, especially with regard to its Democratic members. In his lawsuit, he vowed payback against Democrats should Republicans retake the White House and Congress in 2024.
“If I’m not dead or in prison,” he wrote, “I’ll lead the charge.”
At his court hearing, Mr. Navarro expressed similar disdain for the legal proceeding.
A federal magistrate judge, Zia M. Faruqui, released him from custody with a normal set of conditions, mostly easy restrictions on Mr. Navarro’s travel privileges, noting that he understood the defendant was frustrated by them.
Mr. Navarro rejected the concept that he was frustrated.
“I’m, allow us to say, disillusioned in our republic,” he declared.
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.