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Jan. 6 committee recommends former Trump aides Navarro, Scavino face contempt charges

Dareh Gregorian
Director of the National Trade Council Peter Navarro looks on as President Donald Trump meets with supply chain distributors in reference to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in the Cabinet Room in the West Wing at the White House on Sunday, March 29, 2020.
Pete Marovich | Getty Images

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol advanced a measure Monday to refer former Trump aides Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress charges.

The committee voted 9-0 to send the recommendation to the House. The panel consists of seven Democrats and two Republicans, who are participating without the approval of GOP leadership.

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The panel's vote paves the way for the House to vote on whether the pair should be referred to the Justice Department for a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in prison and fines up to $100,000.

Navarro, a trade adviser during the Trump administration, and Scavino, who served as White House deputy chief of staff, have defied subpoenas from the committee demanding they testify and turn over documents relevant to last year's attack that disrupted the 2020 electoral vote count during a joint session of Congress.

According to a report issued by the committee Sunday, both Navarro and Scavino have cited "executive privilege" as their reason for not cooperating with the panel, arguing only former President Donald Trump can waive that privilege even though President Joe Biden already has.

The committee said the former aides "played key roles in the ex-president's effort to overturn the 2020 election."

Specifically, the panel said Navarro has publicly boasted about plans to upend the 2020 election results, and even published a book last year in which he referred to the plan as the ''Green Bay Sweep.'' He said "it was designed as the 'last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats' jaws of deceit.'''

In detailing the plan, Navarro said the goal was to have lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate the electoral results from six swing states, with the hope of having Congress declare the results to be in dispute. That would set the stage for the House to select the president based on each congressional delegation getting one vote. Since Republicans controlled more state delegations than Democrats, Navarro's plan assumed that Trump would receive a second term in office.

Navarro has said that Trump was "on board with the strategy," along with more than 100 members of Congress, according to the committee's report.

Navarro did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Scavino, who ran Trump's social media, was one of the first people subpoenaed by the committee last year. The panel said Scavino "worked with President Trump as part of the then-President's campaign to reverse the election results. This campaign included, among other things, spreading false information via social media regarding alleged election fraud and recruiting a crowd to Washington for the events of January 6th."

The former deputy chief of staff also "reportedly attended several meetings with the president in which challenges to the election were discussed. Mr. Scavino also tracked social media on behalf of President Trump, and he did so at a time when sites reportedly frequented by Mr. Scavino suggested the possibility of violence on January 6th," the committee's report said.

The panel added that Scavino also did work for Trump's presidential campaign and "continued to do so after the 2020 election, promoting activities designed to reverse the outcome of a lost election."

"Mr. Scavino worked directly with President Trump to spread President Trump's false message that the election was stolen, and to recruit Americans to come to Washington with the false promise that January 6th would be an opportunity to 'take back their country,'" committee vice chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Monday shortly before the vote. "The Committee has many questions for Mr. Scavino about his political social media work for President Trump, including his interactions with an online forum called 'The Donald' and with Qanon, a bizarre and dangerous cult."

Scavino's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The House has already voted on criminal referrals for two other officials who defied the panel's subpoenas — former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The Justice Department acted on the Bannon recommendation, which it does not always do. Bannon has been charged with two counts of contempt. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in July.

The Justice Department has not acted on the referral against Meadows, which the House passed in December.

Monday night's committee vote came just hours after a federal judge in California found in a civil case involving Trump-allied lawyer John Eastman's emails "that it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021," and ordered Eastman to turn over 101 emails to the House panel.

Following Monday's vote, the committee was expected to have a closed session meeting to discuss whether members should seek to interview Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, over text messages between her and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in which she urged him to push Trump to fight the election results.

Two sources told NBC on Monday that the committee is leaning toward calling Ginni Thomas in for an interview, but will discuss the matter in full during Monday night's closed session.

Later this week, the panel is scheduled to interview former top Trump adviser Jared Kushner, the former president's son-in-law, three sources confirmed to NBC News.

Kushner's scheduled appearance on Thursday was first reported by ABC News.