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Former top Trump aide Peter Navarro indicted by grand jury for contempt of Congress, but Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino will not face prosecution

Ex-Trump adviser charged with contempt of Congress
Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro charged with contempt of Congress 02:32

Former top Trump White House aide Peter Navarro has been indicted by a grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress, according to court documents. 

But CBS News has learned former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino will not face prosecution, despite being referred for contempt for failing to appear in front of the Jan. 6 select committee. An official familiar with the matter confirmed to CBS News a letter was sent to the House committee telling them of the decision by the U.S. Attorney's office in D.C.

"While today's indictment of Peter Navarro was the correct decision by the Justice Department, we find the decision to reward Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino for their continued attack on the rule of law puzzling. Mr. Meadows and Mr. Scavino unquestionably have relevant knowledge about President Trump's role in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events of January 6th," said select committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, in a statement.

Navarro's contempt indictment stems from the former top trade official's refusal to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol that took place on Jan. 6, 2021. Navarro said earlier this week that he had received a subpoena from the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., to testify before a grand jury and to turn over records related to the Capitol assault. 

Navarro, 72, made his first appearance in federal court Friday afternoon, after the indictment was unsealed Friday. He said he'd represent himself to avoid expensive legal fees and was joined by a court-appointed attorney for assistance.

He showed anger at prosecutors during the hearing, calling them "despicable" and alleging prosecutorial misconduct. 

Navarro claimed he had told prosecutors to contact a lawyer on Wednesday, seeming to indicate a willingness to cooperate with them, but he was instead taken into custody at the airport, where he planned to board a flight to Nashville for a TV appearance. The government, he said, was playing "hardball" and was pursuing a "bad faith projection."

He asked that his lawsuit against the Jan. 6 select committee and Justice Department, which was filed this week, be litigated before his criminal charges move forward, and he complained that the timing of his case "flies in the face of good faith and due process. He said he's caught between two constitutional interpretations of executive privilege.

Navarro called the Jan. 6 committee a "sham" and, pointing at prosecutors, asked, "who are these people? This is not America."

"The behavior of these people is unconscionable," he added.

The government did not ask for Navarro's detention, so he will be released. He will not be allowed to carry a gun, but he successfully argued that he should be able to retain his passport.

The House Select Committee examining the Jan. 6 attack and the events leading up to it first issued a subpoena to Navarro for records and testimony in early February. Investigators believe Navarro worked with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and others to craft a plan to change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The February request from the House committee also notes that in his book, Navarro described the plan as the "Green Bay Sweep" and wrote it was "the last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats' jaws of deceit."

The select committee issued a subpoena to Navarro in February, requiring him to produce documents and appear before the committee in March, but Navarro declined to do either. 

One count applies to his refusal to turn over documents, and the other count applies to his refusal to appear to testify. If convicted, each count of contempt of Congress would mean a minimum 30-day jail sentence for Navarro, as well as a fine of up to $100,000, according to the Justice Department. 

Another former top adviser to Trump, Steven Bannon, was also indicted last year on contempt of Congress charges. 

— CBS News' Scott MacFarlane, Andres Triay, Nikole Killion and Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

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