National Security

January 6 panel loses patience as contempt claims pile up

Greg Nash

The contempt charges forwarded by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are piling up at the Justice Department, and it’s clear that hopeful lawmakers have been losing their patience.

The committee forwarded the recommendation Monday night to seek charges against Dan Scavino, Trump’s former deputy chief of staff for communications, and Peter Navarro, a former trade adviser. 

If the full House also censures the men it will be the third and fourth such recommendation to the Justice Department seeking charges against aides that have defied the committee by refusing to appear for depositions or provide documents.

So far, however, Justice has only filed charges against one-time White House strategist Stephen Bannon.

While Bannon’s trial is set to begin in June — he faces up to two years in prison and $200,000 in fines — the Justice Department has not yet acted on a similar report recommending contempt of Congress charges against former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“Attorney General Garland, do your job so we can do ours,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said at a Monday night meeting called to weigh the report against Scavino and Navarro.

Meadows was censured by the House in December, yet the Justice Department has taken far longer to weigh whether to bring charges against him.

Meadows presents a more complicated case than Bannon, who was long out of the White House by Jan. 6 and whose claims of being covered by executive privilege were quickly rejected by the department.

The Justice Department has no obligation to pursue charges recommended by the House, but Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) spoke of their duty.

“The Department of Justice has a duty to act on this referral and others that we have sent,” he said.

“Without enforcement of congressional subpoenas, there is no oversight, and without oversight, no accountability — for the former president, or any other president, past, present, or future. Without enforcement of its lawful process, Congress ceases to be a co-equal branch of government, and the balance of power would be forever altered, to the lasting detriment of the American people.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Scavino was subpoenaed by the committee given his proximity to Trump on the day of the riot as well as his efforts promoting the pro-Trump rally that day and his reported participation in multiple conversations about challenging the election. Navarro waded into multiple efforts to promote baseless claims of election fraud in the 2020 contest, including working with Bannon to delay Congress’s certification of the results.

Both have suggested that their work affords them executive privilege. But the committee says Scavino must appear to assert that on a question-by-question basis, while Navarro’s election efforts were far outside his official capacity 

Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was more veiled in her comments, arguing that the executive privilege claims so steadfastly rejected by the committee should not find a home at the Justice Department, which has often been viewed as a protector of executive power.

“Department leadership should not apply any doctrine of immunity that might block Congress from fully uncovering and addressing the causes of the January 6th attack,” she said.

Still, some members of the committee were hopeful that more charges could be coming.

“They’ve acted on Bannon, right? They didn’t, obviously, on Meadows. Our job is to help make the case, and that’s what the contempt report is about. That’s what we can control. What today was about in that room was about Navarro and Scavino and helping to lay the case and to make the case so Congress can act and the Department of Justice can act,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said. 

“And if we do our job, that’s what we feel will happen.”

Tags Adam Schiff Capitol riot Contempt of Congress Elaine Luria Jan. 6 panel Liz Cheney Mark Meadows Pete Aguilar Steve Bannon

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