House asks Justice Department to criminally prosecute former Trump aides Navarro and Scavino for snubbing Jan. 6 committee

Dareh Gregorian
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro listens to a news conference about a presidential executive order relating to military veterans outside of the West Wing of the White House in Washington, March 4, 2019.
Leah Millis | Reuters

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to refer former Trump aides Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress.

The resolution passed in a 220-203 vote, with only two Republicans voting in favor of the referral. Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and fines of up to $100,000.

Both Navarro and Scavino snubbed subpoenas from the House Jan. 6 committee to testify and turn over documents relevant to last year's attack on the U.S. Capitol that disrupted the 2020 electoral vote count during a joint session of Congress.

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The committee has said Navarro, a trade adviser during the Trump administration, and Scavino, who served as White House deputy chief of staff, "played key roles in the ex-president's effort to overturn the 2020 election."

The panel has noted that Navarro publicly boasted about plans to upend the 2020 election results and published a book last year in which he referred to the plan as the "Green Bay Sweep."

Scavino, who ran then-President Donald Trump's social media, was one of the first people subpoenaed by the committee last year. The panel said Scavino worked with Trump as part of his "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."

A report issued by the committee last month said both Navarro and Scavino have cited "executive privilege" as their reason for not cooperating with the panel, arguing only Trump can waive that privilege in their cases, even though President Joe Biden has already done so.

In a statement after the committee voted to send the contempt referral to the full House, Navarro maintained that his position is correct.

"The Select Committee's witch hunt is predicated on the ridiculous legal premise that Joe Biden can waive Donald Trump's Executive Privilege. The Supreme Court will say otherwise when the time comes — as it surely must — and the DOJ knows such nonsense would gut Executive Privilege and the critical role it plays in effective presidential decision making," Navarro said then.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said ahead of the vote that the committee was "criminalizing dissent," and argued the subpoena to Scavino was overly broad.

"Democrats are threatening to throw in jail a good man who's done nothing but attempt to follow the law, simply because he's President Trump's closest aide. Mr. Scavino does not deserve that," McCarthy said.

The House has already voted in favor of 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 and could face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine if he is convicted. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in July.

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