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Peter Navarro, former Trump White House adviser, ordered to report to federal prison by March 19

Peter Navarro sentenced to 4 months in prison
Peter Navarro sentenced to 4 months in prison 03:51

Washington — Former President Donald Trump's White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, has been ordered to report to federal prison in Miami by March 19, following his conviction on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, his lawyers revealed in a court filing on Sunday. 

Navarro was found guilty by a jury last year of defying a subpoena for documents and testimony from the now-defunct House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. After refusing to comply with the congressional request, the House of Representatives held him in contempt and referred the matter to the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., for prosecution. 

Peter Navarro Sentenced For Contempt Of Congress Conviction
File: Peter Navarro, who served as trade adviser to former President Donald Trump, departs the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse on Jan. 25, 2024 in Washington, D.C.  Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Congressional investigators were looking into his efforts to formulate a plan that would have delayed the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Navarro is poised to be the first Trump administration official to serve time for post-2020 election-related conduct.

The former Trump adviser has appealed his conviction, stating that he didn't comply with the committee's demands because he believed he was restricted by executive privilege. Prosecutors argued — and the judge overseeing last year's criminal trial agreed — that the explanation was not a valid legal defense because Navarro failed to prove that Trump had asserted the privilege. As a result, the court ruled he could not raise it at trial.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who made the decision, said that his ruling on executive privilege was likely to be appealed because he recognized the binding legal precedent upon which it was based affected Navarro's defense. He later sentenced Navarro to four months in prison and rejected Navarro's request to remain free pending the appeal. 

Navarro's lawyers turned to the appeals court to keep him out of prison during the appeal process and said in court filings they could take the matter to the Supreme Court. But in a court order on Thursday, a three-judge panel on the D.C. Appeals Court rejected his emergency request to stay his sentence, further clearing the way for Navarro's prison term to begin on March 19.

The judges wrote Thursday that Navarro's argument is not likely to result in the reversal of his conviction.

"Even if executive privilege were available to appellant, it would not excuse his complete noncompliance with the subpoena. Appellant makes no claim of absolute testimonial immunity, nor could he," the judges wrote. "A properly asserted claim of executive privilege would not have relieved him of the obligation to produce unprivileged documents and appear for his deposition to testify on unprivileged matters."

Navarro's attorneys declined to comment on Thursday's ruling. His appeal of the conviction remains ongoing.

During the trial and at sentencing, prosecutors alleged that Navarro "acted like he was above the law" when he did not comply with the committee's order and "thumbed his nose" at their work.

The judge, who said he took issue with Navarro's public comments about the case, told him during the January sentencing that asserting privilege is not "magical dust" or "a get-out-of-jail free card." 

"Should this Court find either that the privilege should have been acknowledged or that Dr. Navarro should have been permitted to present evidence of his reliance on the assertion of executive privilege in his defense, the reversal of his conviction will be required," Navarro's attorneys wrote Sunday to the appeals court. 

An attorney for Navarro declined to comment further. 

In a statement Monday, Navarro said his case, "will eventually determine whether the constitutional separation of powers is preserved, whether executive privilege will continue to exist as a bulwark against partisan attacks by the legislative branch, and whether executive privilege will remain, as President George Washington pioneered, a critical instrument of effective presidential decision-making. That's worth fighting for on behalf of all Americans."

Former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon was also found guilty of contempt of Congress after he did not comply with a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee. Like Navarro, he was sentenced to four months in prison, but the judge in his case has allowed Bannon to remain free pending an appeal of his case because the judge said it was likely the higher court could reverse the conviction or order a new trial. 

Federal prosecutors declined to prosecute two other Trump aides — former chief of staff Mark Meadows and adviser Dan Scavino — also for contempt of Congress. 

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