Prosecutors Rest Case Against Peter Navarro in Contempt Trial

Prosecutors rested their case on Wednesday in the criminal trial of Peter Navarro, who served as President Donald J. Trump’s trade adviser, saying he willfully ignored lawmakers in refusing to appear last year before the House committee investigating the Capitol attack.

After delivering their opening statement, government lawyers took just three hours to introduce all their evidence, arguing that convicting Mr. Navarro revolved around one straightforward question: Did he show contempt for Congress when he disregarded the committee’s subpoena for documents and testimony?

“This case is just about a guy who didn’t show up for his testimony? Yes, this case is that simple,” a prosecutor, John Crabb Jr., said in Federal District Court in Washington. “But this case is also that important — we are a nation of laws, and Mr. Navarro acted like he was above the law.”

The defense also rested, calling no witnesses and presenting no evidence, with closing arguments expected to begin Thursday morning. The fast clip of the trial suggested that the jury could deliberate shortly after.

Mr. Navarro, 74, faces two counts of contempt of Congress, making him the second top official of Mr. Trump’s to face criminal charges after declining to cooperate with the House committee. If convicted, Mr. Navarro could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000 for each count.

Stephen K. Bannon, who worked as a strategist and adviser to Mr. Trump in the early months of his administration, was also indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress after defying a subpoena from the committee. He was convicted last summer and sentenced to four months in prison, though he remains free while his appeal is pending.

Lawyers for Mr. Navarro, limited in what defense they could make in court, sought to paint him as a diligent policy adviser who got caught up in fraught legal negotiations with the Jan. 6 committee.

One of his lawyers, Stanley Woodward Jr., said that the Justice Department’s suggestion that Mr. Navarro was a critical witness to the panel’s investigation was overstated, describing prosecutors’ opening statement as theatrical.

“It’s like one of those movies where you get nothing after the preview,” he said, while Mr. Navarro, who stood behind his lawyers’ table, paced back and forth and listened intently.

The prosecution on Wednesday focused on correspondence between Mr. Navarro and the Jan. 6 committee in February last year, calling as witnesses three staff members on the panel who helped draft and serve the subpoena to Mr. Navarro.

David Buckley, the staff director for the committee, and Daniel George, a senior investigative counsel, testified that the panel came to view Mr. Navarro as one of the more prominent public officials sowing doubt about the integrity of the 2020 election.

The committee was particularly interested in a three-part report Mr. Navarro wrote claiming widespread voter fraud and a memoir he published after he left the White House.

In the book, Mr. Navarro laid out a strategy he had devised with Mr. Bannon known as the Green Bay Sweep, intended to reject the results of the election in key swing states that had been called for Joseph R. Biden Jr. He described it as “our last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats’ jaws of deceit.”

But Mr. Navarro rebuffed their requests for an interview with the committee, both men testified.

Mr. George, who formally notified Mr. Navarro about the subpoena, said that before he had even sent the subpoena itself, which included a list of documents the committee was seeking, Mr. Navarro responded minutes later with an email that simply stated, “executive privilege.”

“I didn’t make much of that because we hadn’t communicated to him what we wanted to speak about,” Mr. George said.

Mr. Navarro and his lawyers were left to mount a circuitous defense after the judge presiding over the case, Amit P. Mehta, rejected their main argument before the trial began: that Mr. Trump, who was no longer president at the time, had directed him to ignore the subpoena and that he was shielded by executive privilege. Mr. Navarro has consistently maintained outside court that he was merely acting on the orders of Mr. Trump, who Mr. Navarro says had expressly asked him and other senior advisers not to cooperate with the committee.

Defense lawyers on Wednesday instead pinned blame on the House committee, saying that Mr. Navarro had referred members of the panel to Mr. Trump directly, but lawmakers did not follow up with him to confirm whether Mr. Navarro was covered by any privilege.

Under cross-examination, Mr. George acknowledged that after Mr. Navarro initially responded to requests from the committee, members did not approach Mr. Trump or his lawyers to clarify whether he had expressly asked Mr. Navarro not to cooperate, citing executive privilege.

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