A federal jury on Thursday dropped the ax on Peter Navarro, finding the ex-Donald Trump adviser and MAGA loyalist guilty of a pair of contempt of Congress charges after just four hours of deliberations. He’s now facing a sentence of up to two years behind bars.
Navarro, who gained notoriety for the extreme efforts he made to try to overturn the 2020 election, was busted for ignoring a subpoena to hand over documents and testify before the House’s Jan. 6 committee.
Navarro, 74, long insisted that he wasn’t legally obligated to testify in front of Congress or provide documents requested by the feds because Trump, who was no longer president, had granted him executive privilege. Judge Amit P. Mehta shot that argument down in a pretrial hearing last week, however, leaving Navarro’s defense team grasping at straws as they tried to justify his failure to appear for a deposition.
Jurors began deliberating on Thursday morning and wrapped up by the afternoon—just a day after the trial began. Proceedings were similarly brief for Steve Bannon, another former Trump aide who was sentenced to four months in the clink for defying a subpoena from the same committee.
Navarro will learn his fate at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Jan. 12. The minimum sentence for each charge is 30 days behind bars.
Speaking outside the courthouse Thursday, Navarro conceded that he “knew going in what the verdict was going to be” after he was told he couldn’t use executive privilege as a defense. He said he planned to appeal the verdict and thought it would eventually end up in the Supreme Court.
“I said from the beginning this was going to the Supreme Court,” he said. “I am willing to go to prison to settle this issue.”
Before he spoke, he was again antagonized by a woman holding a sign behind him—the same woman he unsuccessfully tried to rip a sign away from last week. A few seconds into the press conference, she yelled out that another protester had assaulted her and Navarro’s spiel went off the rails.
The bane of Peter Navarro's existence shows up yet again after he was found guilty of contempt of Congress, causing his post-verdict presser to quickly go off the rails.
"That man just assaulted me. He stuck a flag pole up in between my legs! ... I want to press charges." pic.twitter.com/TN0Ll0GFty
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) September 7, 2023
“It’s a sad day for America,” Navarro continued, referencing protesters’ interruptions. “Not ’cause they were guilty verdicts, [but] because I can’t come out and have an honest, decent conversation with the people of America.”
He then whined that “this is the problem we have right here, this kind of divide in our country between the woke Marxist left and everybody else here.”
On Wednesday, prosecutor John Crabb Jr. told jurors in opening statements that the case against Navarro was simple: He’d failed to show up to a deposition as ordered and deserved to be punished just as anyone else would.
“This case is just about a guy who didn’t show up for his testimony,” Crabb said. “Yes, this case is that simple. But this case is also that important—we are a nation of laws, and Mr. Navarro acted like he was above the law.”
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) September 7, 2023
Jurors didn’t buy the defense’s argument that Navarro was merely a loyal adviser to Trump who was following his boss’ orders, caught up in a misunderstanding about whether or not he was shielded by executive privilege.
Stan Woodward, Navarro’s attorney, told jurors that his client didn’t testify before Congress because its representatives never came to confirm with him if he was required to. With no guidance from Congress, Navarro said he merely continued following Trump’s order not to comply with the committee’s requests.
“For the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt it also has to prove that Dr. Navarro’s failure to comply with the subpoena was not the result of accident, mistake, or inadvertence,” Woodward said.
Crabb shot back that Woodward’s argument made no sense. The prosecutor told jurors that Navarro—even if he had been granted executive privilege—would still have been required to show up on Capitol Hill and explain why he was protected on a question-by-question basis.
After the jury’s verdict was read, Woodward filed a motion for a mistrial, claiming jurors saw a contingent of Jan. 6 protesters outside the court just before they delivered their decision—something he claims could have tainted their thinking.
Navarro admitted to ignoring the subpoena but never apologized. While others in Trump’s orbit have turned their back on the former president in the wake of his quartet of indictments, Navarro has never wavered in his support—telling anyone who will listen about his (failed) efforts to keep Trump in power.
While Navarro was eager to tell the world about the lengths he went to to overturn the election, he refused to speak to Congress. Had he done as little as show up on Capitol Hill and assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, he likely would have evaded charges entirely.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Aloi noted as much in closing remarks Thursday, saying Navarro “was more than happy to share” his knowledge about the 2020 election “with the public, on the news, with anyone that asked—except for the congressional committee that could do something about it.”
“Peter Navarro made a choice,” Aloi said. “He chose not to comply with the congressional subpoena. Our government only works when people play by the rules.”
Crabb added, “He blew it off. That shows you it was intentional.”