Peter Navarro, the diehard MAGA devotee who took a role in Donald Trump’s White House and later became the former president’s point man on the Big Lie, is currently on trial for flouting a congressional subpoena requiring him to testify about his favorite subject: the 2020 election.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ended the day by selecting the jury that will decide Navarro’s fate—and things aren’t looking good for him.
Navarro is poised to lose the trial convincingly, completing his destiny as yet another Trump loyalist undone by his unyielding service to a man who keeps deflecting blame for every policy and business failure. But Navarro isn’t just a cautionary Trumpworld tale.
For months, Navarro would tell anybody he could about his earnest efforts to keep Trump in office after his political idol lost the 2020 election.
Navarro wrote a book about it. He laid out the plan to interrupt Congress on right-wing blowhard Steve Bannon’s daily podcast. He even lamented its failure while directly implicating Trump and others in an interview with The Daily Beast, a shocking admission that led to stories in Rolling Stone and a head-turning interaction on MSNBC.
But Navarro simply wouldn’t tell his story under oath for the House Jan. 6 Committee, which came calling in the weeks after his interview with this publication—even though he had received a congressional subpoena demanding he show up.
The committee’s work is over, culminating in the definitive report documenting Trump’s desperate attempts to cling to power. But Navarro now faces a potential jail sentence.
The Department of Justice charged Navarro with two misdemeanor counts of congressional contempt, and if Bannon’s own trial last year is any indication, the Washington jury will quickly conclude he’s guilty.
Like his podcasting associate, Navarro has been totally stripped of any effective defenses.
In January, the federal judge overseeing his case barred Navarro from making the lame excuse that Trump—who was no longer president—could somehow wave around expired credentials and exercise executive privilege to keep him from talking to Congress. Last week, the judge went even further during a court hearing, expressing doubt that Navarro even got an explicit directive.
“I still don’t know what the president said… I don’t have any words from the former president,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said.
Trump of course could interject and say he told Navarro not to testify in some expression of executive privilege. But he’s extremely unlikely to speak up, perhaps because he didn’t but also because saying so would just strengthen two criminal cases against him.
Instead, Navarro has next to no defense.
CNN and others noted how the judge described the record as “barren” and called a portion of Navarro’s contrived retelling “pretty weak sauce.”
That means that Navarro, like his buddy Bannon, is going to trial to face the music and wait until jurors come to the obvious conclusion that he simply chose to ignore a legitimate congressional subpoena.
Like Bannon, Navarro didn’t have to go through this. He could have showed up on Capitol Hill and told congressional investigators the same thing he was telling the American public—or even remained quiet and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
But at this point, the DOJ need only use his own words against him. On Tuesday, prosecutors filed a court memo indicating that Navarro himself has already copped to the crime in the ill-advised 88-page lawsuit he filed on his own against then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—a move that violated the old adage, “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
Prosecutors pointed to a point at which Navarro, 73 pages into his lawsuit, derided the present government by alleging a conspiracy to take him down as soon as he’d “failed to comply with what I believed their unlawful subpoena.”
“I had—and have—no other honorable choice than to fail to comply with the Committee’s subpoena,” he added.
Meanwhile, Navarro’s lawyers engaged in a last-minute scramble on the eve of jury selection in a hopeless attempt to stop the DOJ, noting the fact that Navarro even tried to lean on Trump’s supposed executive privilege as a way to get out of testifying before the congressional panel.
“Admission of his assertion of executive privilege would unfairly prejudice Dr. Navarro; would confuse the issues for the jury; and would mislead the jury,” his attorneys wrote.
But Navarro’s lawyers went even further, feigning surprise that prosecutors intended to argue that Navarro’s mere assertion of bogus executive privilege was, in fact, the very proof that he wasn’t acting in good faith. They called it “patently unfair” that Navarro can’t explain why he thought Trump’s long-gone presidential powers somehow barred him while prosecutors can use that explanation to prove “that he acted ‘willfully.’”
Prosecutors countered that Navarro’s emails to the committee are pretty damning in that they show his state of mind, because congressional investigators told him this excuse wouldn’t work.
“The committee explained that executive privilege would not excuse his noncompliance,” prosecutors told the judge, noting that the emails are “direct evidence that his default was intentional.” Navarro “was apprised of his obligation to show-up” and the emails explain, prosecutors said, “that he chose not to do so.”
Navarro’s trial this week at the federal courthouse in Washington—the same one where Trump was recently indicted over his coup attempt—is expected to only take a few days. If convicted, he’ll be sentenced in a few months. If he’s granted the same treatment as Bannon, he’ll remain free pending an appeal.
But aside from the prospect of spending up to two years in prison, Navarro appears deeply concerned about his mounting legal bills. He’s being represented by John S. Irving, John P. Rowley, III, Stanley E. Woodward, Jr., Stan M. Brand—a team that has separately represented the former president and various insurrectionists.
While the former president keeps raising hundreds of millions of dollars in a 2024 presidential campaign that pays for his lawyers, Navarro appears to be stuck paying for his own.
When he addressed journalists outside the courthouse last week, he started by directing anyone who’d listen to his online fundraising website—then bemoaned the cost he’s now shouldering. He called the prosecution “lawfare” against political rivals meant to “try to put you in prison… but it’s also to bankrupt you.”
“We’re going to go up to $750,000 by the end of the trial, and the appeals are going to be over a million,” he said. “Do I look like a rich man? This is the same suit I wore in 2017 going into the White House, OK?”