The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to put Peter Navarro, who used to work as a trade adviser for President Trump, in jail for six months for contempt of Congress.
Navarro is accused of not wanting to work with the House committee that is looking into the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The committee told Navarro last year that he had to show up for a deposition and give them papers. He refused to do what the panel told him to do, making him the second former Trump official after Steve Bannon to be found guilty of contempt for disobeying their orders.
The committee thinks that Navarro knows important details about Trump’s plans to nullify the 2020 election that could help them understand what happened before the Capitol uprising.
Investigators can’t learn about how the Trump White House worked during the chaotic time after the election because he won’t speak.
Prosecutors said in a sentencing memo turned in on Friday that Navarro’s actions were “antithetical to the rule of law” and called for a harsh sentence.
They said that he wasn’t willing to talk honestly about the size of the subpoena; instead, he showed “obstinance and outright hostility toward the power of Congress.”
Navarro could spend up to a year in jail for each of the two counts of contempt. Technically, probation is also an option, but the Justice Department made it clear that it thinks prison is the best punishment for knowingly ignoring the congressional branch’s investigative power.
The Navarro administration has called the Justice Department’s suggestion “grotesquely unjust” and said it is an act of political payback by Democrats.
In his own sentencing letter, he said that the House committee was on a partisan witch hunt and that he was right to block their “unprecedented” investigation because of this.
The opposing memos show how different people feel about Navarro’s prosecution and the general legitimacy of the committee’s work.
They could also be a sign of arguments about whether or not Executive Branch officials should be subject to congressional review if the Republicans win the House again this year.
In the end, Chief Judge Beryl Howell will decide how harshly Navarro is punished. This is the same judge who gave Bannon four months in prison for rejecting the Jan. 6 panel in a similar way.
The judge is going to sentence Navarro on Friday, February 17. He might end up being the next Trump official to go to jail for contempt of Congress if he can’t convince Judge Howell that his pushback was legal.