A federal judge on Friday delayed the contempt of Congress trial of former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro over issues of executive privilege.
Navarro had been set to go on trial next week on two charges that he had refused to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and attempts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election.
Instead, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asked DOJ attorneys to address questions of when executive privilege applies for a former aide to a former President.
At a hearing Friday, Mehta said he felt like “we are in uncharted territory.”
Navarro had been indicted by a grand jury for contempt and arrested at the airport in Nashville on June 3 for failing to testify on March 2 in response to the Committee’s subpoena. He had also failed to produce by February 23 the documents sought by that same subpoena.
Mehta has declined to dismiss the charges entirely on Navarro’s claim that he did not comply because of executive privilege, which gives the President the power to withhold certain documents from Congress.
Navarro had submitted a letter to the court from an attorney representing former President Trump, which said Navarro had an “obligation to assert executive privilege” on Trump’s behalf—to which Judge Mehta responded by saying it was “notable for what it does not say.”
“It doesn’t say Mr. Trump ever instructed Mr. Navarro to invoke executive privilege with respect to the January 6 Select Committee,” Mehta said.
The DOJ argued Friday that Navarro’s executive privilege claim had been rejected before the trial.
“It is unprecedented for a jury to be asked to decide whether executive privilege has been invoked,” DOJ attorney Elizabeth Aloi asserted.
Navarro was one of five witnesses whom the House voted to refer for criminal contempt charges last year. The DOJ indicted only two: Navarro and former White House adviser Steve Bannon.
Bannon was convicted on two counts of contempt at trial last year; he is appealing.
If Navarro is convicted, he faces a minimum of 30 days in prison on each count, up to a maximum of one year.