House Votes to Find Scavino and Navarro in Contempt in Jan. 6 Inquiry

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to recommend criminal contempt of Congress charges against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino Jr., two close allies of former President Donald J. Trump, after they both defied subpoenas from the special committee investigating the incident. of January 6, 2021. , attack on the Capitol.

The overwhelmingly partisan vote of 220 to 203 referred the contempt charges to the Justice Department and called for the prosecution of Navarro, a former White House senior adviser, and Scavino Jr., a former deputy chief of staff. It came as congressional investigators have grown increasingly frustrated with some of Trump’s staunchest supporters who have refused to meet with the panel or turn over a single page of evidence to the committee as it investigates the worst assault on Capitol Hill since the War of 1812.

“We have two people who are blatantly and blatantly challenging the authority of the United States House of Representatives,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and committee member. He said the men “had nothing but excuses for their noncompliance, excuses you wouldn’t accept from a teenager.”

Only two Republicans, Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both members of the investigative committee, voted for the charges. The rest of his party refused to support the measure.

Dozens of Republicans lined the House floor Wednesday to demand a change of subject, trying to force a vote on immigration legislation in line with their efforts to use problems at the border as a political weapon against Democrats earlier. of the mid-term legislative elections. .

After that failed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican and Minority Leader, attacked the investigation in a courtroom speech as an “impeachment trial” and accused the panel of intimidating the men and trampling on their civil rights.

“Let me be clear: the January 6 riot was wrong. But make no mistake: the Democrats’ response is also wrong,” McCarthy said, adding: “Democrats are using the power of the federal government to jail their political opponents.”

Mr. Raskin countered that Republicans were using “circus shenanigans” to try to delay the vote with a “conga line” of lawmakers lining up on the floor while skipping their committee assignments.

He accused Republicans of “slavishly” following Trump as “sycophants” instead of joining efforts to investigate the deadly attack on Capitol Hill that left more than 150 police officers injured.

A contempt of Congress charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $100,000. The House vote referred the matter to the Justice Department, which must now decide whether to charge the two men.

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, said too much was at stake of potential jail time, noting the vote would mean four Trump White House aides would face criminal referrals from the committee.

“Messrs. Scavino has two sons. He is a good father,” Banks said.

Ms. Cheney called the vote “sad” and “tragic” but said the committee was left with no choice after some in her own party abandoned the truth out of loyalty to Trump.

“Many in my own party refuse to address the constitutional crisis and the challenge that we face,” he said.

The Jan. 6 committee laid out its case against Navarro and Scavino in a 34-page report detailing how involved they were in efforts to keep Trump in power even after he lost decisively at the polls.

Navarro and Scavino are among a handful of Trump’s closest allies who have refused to sit down for interviews or turn over documents, even as more than 800 witnesses, including other top White House officials, have complied with the committee’s requests. .

Last week, the panel interviewed both Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom are senior Trump White House advisers. Each sat down for lengthy interviews with the committee. Neither asserted executive privilege to avoid answering the committee’s questions.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and committee chairman, contrasted his approach with the hard-line stance taken by Scavino and Navarro.

“The president’s own daughter complied with the committee’s wishes,” Mr. Thompson said. “If her daughter complied with the committee’s wishes, everyone else should.”

The committee said Navarro had worked with Stephen K. Bannon, another Trump ally, to carry out a plan to delay congressional certification of the election on Jan. 6, 2021, and ultimately to try to change the outcome of the elections. Mr. Navarro previously described this plan as the “Sweep of Green Bay” and said that more than 100 members of Congress had signed it.

Mr. Navarro also wrote a report alleging a stolen election, which was widely shared with others working to nullify the election. Mr. Navarro claimed that Mr. Trump “had himself distributed Volume 1 of the report to all members of the House and Senate” prior to January 6.

In his latest statement, Navarro denied having anything to do with the violence, but continued to insist that the 2020 election was rigged, while promoting his book, “In Trump Time.”

“A truly bipartisan committee would investigate why Nancy Pelosi, the Capitol Police and the Pentagon left the perimeter of the Capitol building inadequately guarded and whether FBI informants played a significant role in instigating the violence and chaos that was , as I pointed out on ‘In Trump Time,’ the last result that Donald Trump and I wanted for January 6,” he said. “We needed peace and quiet on that day for the legal sweep of Green Bay to take place and thus get an accurate accounting of all the legal votes.”

As for Scavino, the committee said he had worked with Trump to spread false information via social media about voter fraud and had recruited a crowd in Washington on January 6.

The committee said it had “reason to believe” that Scavino, whose subpoena was served at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida, was with Trump on January 5 and 6 in 2021 when plans were discussed. to “challenge, disrupt, or impede the official proceedings of Congress.” He, too, stood with Trump as people trapped inside Capitol Hill urgently called on the president to stop the violence.

The committee also said it “has reason to believe that Mr. Scavino may have received advance warning of the potential for violence on January 6” because he was known to monitor pro-Trump websites where plans to commit crimes were discussed. acts of violence.

The committee has sought Scavino’s testimony since September, when he was subpoenaed. The panel said it delayed Scavino’s plea six times to try to accommodate him.

Scavino sued Verizon in January, initially anonymously, to prevent the company from giving his phone records to the committee.

Their attorneys have argued that President Biden, who waived executive privilege for both men, does not have the authority to do so over testimony from the former president’s top aides.

So far, Mr. Bannon is the only committee target who has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena.

Mr. Bannon, whose trial is tentatively scheduled for July, was dealt a legal blow on Wednesday when a judge ruled that he could not defend himself on the grounds that he was simply following the advice of his lawyers when he refused to respond to the committee’s subpoena.

In December, the House recommended that Mark Meadows, the last Trump White House chief of staff, face criminal contempt of Congress charges for refusing to sit for an interview with the committee. The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to file criminal charges against Meadows, who turned over thousands of documents to the committee before he stopped cooperating.

The committee also initially sought a contempt charge against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer who was involved in Trump’s frantic attempts to nullify the election. But before sending a contempt recommendation to the full House, Clark’s attorney let the panel know that he would appear for another interview in which he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. That effectively ended the possible contempt charge against him.

alan fire contributed report.

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