House votes to hold Navarro and Scavino in contempt of Congress
The House voted Wednesday to hold two advisers to former President Trump, Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino, in contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas from the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Lawmakers voted almost entirely along party lines, 220-203.
Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), the two Republicans serving on the committee, were the only members of their party to back the resolution.
Navarro, a former trade adviser to Trump, and Scavino, Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications, both defied the committee’s subpoenas and refused to testify or provide documents.
The vote will refer the charges to the Justice Department, which can choose to pursue further action.
Scavino was one of the committee’s earliest subpoena targets, seeking an interview with an aide who spent considerable time with the president on Jan. 6 and helped promote the rally.
Navarro was subpoenaed by the committee in February after passages from his own book appeared to show he was involved in plans to delay certification of the presidential election.
Scavino and Navarro have both claimed they cannot cooperate with the committee due to executive privilege concerns. While Scavino was referenced in a letter from Trump’s attorney raising that issue, the former president has not done the same for Navarro.
President Biden has said he would not claim executive privilege for either man.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Jan. 6 committee who was also the lead House Democratic prosecutor during Trump’s second impeachment, said the two men “have blown us off completely,” and alluded to the multiple subpoenas issued to Scavino.
“If 90 percent of success in life is just showing up, then 90 percent of acting in contempt of congress is not showing up by failing to respond to multiple subpoenas you’ve been lawfully served,” he said.
“The rest of contempt is not turning over documents you’ve been ordered to produce and acting with open disregard and scorn for the rule of law, Congress and representatives of the American people.”
The House has previously voted to hold two other former Trump advisers, former strategist Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the committee.
But so far the Justice Department has only acted on one of those recommendations, with Bannon facing trial this summer in a case that could mean up to two years in jail and $200,000 in fines.
A judge ruled in a pretrial hearing Wednesday that Bannon cannot argue that he was relying on his lawyer’s advice in defying his congressional subpoena.
It’s unclear whether the Justice Department will choose to act on the third and fourth recommendations from Congress for criminal charges. Attorney General Merrick Garland brushed aside a question from reporters on Wednesday over whether the failure to take such recommendations renders Congress ineffective in its investigations.
“We will follow the facts and the law wherever they lead. We don’t comment any further on investigations,” he said.
Republicans defending Scavino and Navarro stressed the potential punishment either could face.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) noted that Scavino has children, asking colleagues how they would explain such a conviction to his sons.
“Mr. Scavino has two boys. He’s a good dad, he doesn’t deserve this, his boys definitely don’t deserve this. So before we vote today I have got to ask could anyone here explain to those boys why their dad deserves to be behind bars for a year,” Banks said.
“Contempt is not enforcement; it’s punishment. Contempt won’t get the committee any information. Only the court can do that. But they don’t want to go to the judiciary. They don’t want neutral arbitration. They want political punishment.”
Cheney — who Republicans booted as their third-ranking leader last year for her pushback against Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election — accused her GOP colleagues of abandoning their constitutional obligations.
“Those in this chamber who continue to embrace the former president and his dangerous and destructive lies ought to take a good hard look at themselves,” Cheney said.
“At a moment of real danger to our republic, when the need for fidelity to our Constitution is paramount, they have abandoned their oaths in order to perform for Donald Trump. That will be their legacy,” she added.
At one point in the debate, Raskin also gave an emotional defense of Cheney and Kinzinger, saying Democrats have been left to defend them as Republicans begin “the utterly cannibalistic process of vilifying and castigating Republicans just because they disagree with the orthodoxy, the dogma handed down by Donald Trump.”
“Because if you don’t go along with what Donald Trump says, if you don’t act like you’re a robot or a member of a religious cult, they will attack you, they will vilify you, they will denounce you. These people, Mr. Kinzinger, Ms. Cheney, are constitutional heroes, and they don’t deserve your contempt. The insurrectionists and the law breakers deserve your contempt, because they are acting in contempt of the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States,” Raskin said.
Despite the lack of cooperation from some prominent figures in the former president’s orbit, the committee has recently secured testimony from two of Trump’s closest advisers: his eldest daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
According to multiple reports about Trump’s actions — or lack thereof — behind the scenes on Jan. 6, Ivanka Trump was in communication with her father and top GOP officials while the Capitol was under siege by the mob of his supporters trying to stop lawmakers from ratifying the presidential election results.
One top point of inquiry for the committee has been to uncover Trump’s actions on that day as GOP allies pleaded for help while the Capitol was under attack from the violent mob. Aside from a series of tweets and a video in which he told his supporters to “go home” and “we love you, you’re very special,” the official public record of Trump’s activities on Jan. 6 remains largely unknown.
Overall, the committee has interviewed more than 800 witnesses to date.
While the committee is set to automatically sunset at the end of the year unless the majority party extends it next January, Republicans used debate on the bill to reassert their desire to end its work.
“If anyone has acted like they are above the law, it is the select committee,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the House floor on Wednesday.
“When we take back the House, it will stop.”
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