Tuesday, March 28

House January 6 committee to consider holding two Trump aides in contempt | U.S. Capitol attack

The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack will consider holding in criminal contempt of Congress next week two of Donald Trump’s most senior White House advisers in Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro, the panel announced on Thursday.

The move to initiate contempt proceedings against the two Trump aides amounts to a biting rebuke of their refusal to cooperate with the inquiry, as the panel deploys its most punitive measures to reaffirm the consequences of noncompliance.

House investigators said in a notice that it would consider a contempt report against Scavino and Navarro in a business meeting scheduled for next Monday on Capitol Hill, after they defied subpoenas compelling them to provide documents and testimony.

The select committee is expected to vote unanimously to send the contempt report for a vote before the House of Representatives, according to a source close to the panel, so that the Trump aides can be referred to the justice department for prosecution.

The select committee took a special interest in Scavino, since, as Trump’s former deputy chief of staff for communications, he was intimately involved in a months-long effort by the Trump White House to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Scavino was also closely involved in the scheme to pressure then vice-president Mike Pence to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win at the joint session of Congress on January 6, said his subpoenafirst issued in October last year.

The select committee sought information from Navarro since he knew of that scheme to have Pence return Trump to office, through his contacts with the former president and the Trump ‘war room’ at the Willard hotel in Washington that oversaw its implementation.

Navarro was briefed on the scheme – dubbed the ‘Green Bay Sweep’ – by the political operatives responsible for the operation at the Willard that included former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, who was also indicted for contempt last year for subpoena defiance.

The Guardian has reported that Trump discussed ways to stop Biden’s certification from taking place with the Willard war room hours before the Capitol attack, based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud that originated in part from Navarro’s aides.

However, the select committee’s move to consider contempt reports against the two Trump aides indicate neither one complied with their subpoena. Their contempt reports are expected to be made public Sunday, said a source familiar with the matter.

The panel had sought to negotiate Scavino’s testimony for months, suggesting House investigators hoped he might be prepared to shed light on the nexus between the Willard operation and the White House in the days leading up to the Capitol attack.

But the abrupt termination of talks suggests that the select committee now has enough information from more than 750 depositions with other witnesses that Scavino’s cooperation is no longer essential, and can now refer him for prosecution.

The much shorter timeline between Navarro’s subpoena on 9 February and the contempt report may similarly indicate the panel no longer has a burning need for his testimony – or that it was worth spending time negotiating to get his insight.

Navarro entirely skipped his deposition, scheduled for 2 March claiming that as a former top White House aide, he enjoyed immunity from congressional subpoenas after Trump, as the former president, asserted executive privilege.

A spokesperson for the select committee did not respond to a request for comment.

Once the select committee adopts a contemplated report, it is referred to the full House for a vote. Should the House approve the report, Congress can then send the request for a criminal referral to the US attorney for the District of Columbia.

The move to initiate contempt of Congress proceedings against Scavino and Navarro marks the third time the panel has pursued such action. Bannon was held in contempt last October, and former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was referred in December.


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