Jury Begins to Deliberate in Navarro’s Contempt of Congress Trial

A federal jury in Washington began deliberating on Thursday in the criminal trial of Peter Navarro, a top aide to President Donald J. Trump, who is charged with contempt of Congress after he ignored a subpoena last year from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

In delivering closing arguments, prosecutors and defense lawyers largely agreed on the facts in the case: that Mr. Navarro balked when ordered to cooperate with the panel. But in contention was whether that act amounted to a willful defiance of Congress, or a simple misunderstanding between Mr. Navarro and the committee’s staff.

“The defendant, Peter Navarro, made a choice,” said Elizabeth Aloi, a prosecutor. “He didn’t want to comply and produce documents, and he didn’t want to testify, so he didn’t.”

Detailing the House committee’s correspondence with Mr. Navarro, Ms. Aloi said that even after the panel asked Mr. Navarro to explain any opposition he had to giving sworn testimony, he continued to stonewall.

“The defendant chose allegiance to President Trump over compliance with the subpoena,” she said. “That is contempt. That is a crime.”

Stanley Woodward Jr., a lawyer for Mr. Navarro, countered that the government had simply failed to show that Mr. Navarro’s decision not to comply was anything other than “inadvertence, accident or mistake.”

If Mr. Navarro were to be convicted on the two counts of contempt of Congress he is charged with, he could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000 for each count.

Evoking images of violence and chaos at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors also emphasized the role that Mr. Navarro’s behavior after the 2020 election may have played in drawing scores of rioters to Washington that day to disrupt Congress’s certification of the results.

That caused Mr. Woodward to bristle, telling the jury repeatedly that the government was relying on emotional descriptions of Jan. 6 to tarnish Mr. Navarro’s image, rather than proving he ever intended to blow off lawmakers.

“This case is not about what happened on Jan. 6,” Mr. Woodward said. “What happened on Jan. 6 was abhorrent.”

As the Jan. 6 committee sought to interview senior White House aides last year, Mr. Navarro and Stephen K. Bannon, a former strategist and adviser to Mr. Trump, stood out for their baseless statements about election fraud, staff members who had worked on the committee said in testimony on Wednesday.

In particular, Mr. Navarro and Mr. Bannon had collaborated on a strategy, known as the Green Bay Sweep, intended to encourage Congress to reject the results of the election in key swing states that had been called for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“It became clear to members of the investigative staff that efforts to overturn the 2020 election directly fed into the unrest at the Capitol,” Marc Harris, a senior investigative counsel, testified.

But even as others in Mr. Trump’s inner circle cooperated, to a degree, with the committee, Mr. Navarro and Mr. Bannon blatantly disregarded its demands.

Both men claimed that their decision rested on the fact that Mr. Trump had asserted executive privilege to block them from testifying. But after both were indicted on contempt of Congress charges, federal judges ruled that those claims, for different reasons, did not amount to a valid defense in court.

In Mr. Navarro’s case, Judge Amit P. Mehta found that he never marshaled convincing evidence that Mr. Trump had personally instructed him to ignore the subpoena. In a hearing before the trial, Judge Mehta also said that even if the former president had clearly asserted that privilege, the committee was not seeking to interview Mr. Navarro about his private conversations with Mr. Trump, which is what would traditionally be protected.

Accordingly, Judge Mehta instructed jurors on Thursday that any mention of executive privilege during the trial could not be considered a defense for Mr. Navarro’s conduct.

“Even if he believed he had an excuse, it does not matter,” Ms. Aloi said moments later. “He had to comply with the subpoena no matter what, and assert any privileges in the way Congress set forth.”

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