House committee advances contempt motion against Navarro and Scavino
▶ Watch Video: House committee hearing on contempt of Congress for Navarro, Scavino
The House Rules Committee on Monday voted to advance the contempt motion against two former aides to President Trump who have not complied with subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The motion will now go for a vote before the full House of Representatives.
Last week, the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack against the U.S. Capitol voted unanimously to refer to Congress the contempt charges against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino for refusing to comply with subpoenas to appear before the committee.
The Rules Committee voted along party lines, nine Democrats to four Republicans, that the full House could vote whether to refer the contempt charges to the Justice Department. It’s likely to pass the Democratic-controlled House, as the two other contempt votes for Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows have.
The Justice Department charged Bannon in November with two charges of contempt, to which he has pleaded not guilty. The Justice Department has not handed down charges yet against Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff. Contempt of Congress is punishable by up to a year in prison and fines up to $100,000.
“I believe there must be accountability for what happened or it will happen again. Nobody is above the law,” said Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, the committee chairman. “This is not a step that we take lightly, but it is sadly a step that Mr. Navarro and Mr. Scavino have forced us to take in pursuit of the truth.”
During Monday’s hearing, Democrats repeated the scope of Scavino and Navarro’s work for Trump around the election and reiterated why they wanted to interview them. In a report last week, the January 6 committee accused Navarro, a former trade adviser for Trump, of working with “Bannon and others to develop and implement a plan to delay Congress’ certification and ultimately change the outcome of the November 2020 Presidential election.”
Scavino served as Trump’s social media director and deputy chief of staff. The January 6 committee said they have “reason to believe that Mr. Scavino was with then-President Trump on January 5 and January 6 and was party to conversations regarding plans to challenge, disrupt, or impede the official congressional proceedings.”
Both Scavino and Navarro have said they cannot appear because Trump has invoked executive privilege, however, President Biden has rejected the claims of executive privilege.
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Rules Committee, said Monday that Scavino and Navarro had raised “legitimate concerns about the scope of subpoenas issued to them and have raised legitimate concerns surrounding executive privilege.”
“These concerns are for the courts to decide, not the House,” he said.
While the committee’s resolution disputes that either person has grounds for asserting privilege, January 6 committee chair Bennie Thompson also said they can’t make that argument without coming before the committee.
“If you want the protection of any of those privileges you have to show up and explain why,” he said.
Rep. Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the January 6 committee praised Republicans from state governments, the Justice Department and the former administration who have testified before the committee. Cheney said that Navarro “does not have the courage to testify here,” and warned her current colleagues against “whitewashing” the events of January 6, 2021.
“Think to yourself what would have happened if the men and women in uniform who defend all of us in the Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police Department if they hadn’t done their job,” she said. “We would have had thousands more angry, violent rioters in this Capital; we would have had a far worse constitutional crisis. So don’t think that you can whitewash this and don’t think that you can maintain your character and your honor and your duty.”
Democrats also mentioned a judge’s ruling in the John Eastman case that suggested it was “more likely than not” Trump had committed multiple federal crimes.
Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota testified in defense of the pair, arguing they had a right to challenge the subpoenas and that Scavino’s attorney had unsuccessfully sought to ask the committee about the scope of the subpoena.
“The question before us today is not whether you agree with Mr. Scavino’s position. The question is whether you recognize Mr. Scavino’s right to challenge the subpoena,” he said.