The House select committee investigating the US Capitol riot will consider whether to recommend that two former advisers to former President Donald Trump be held in contempt for not cooperating with its investigation and to refer them to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.
On Monday, the committee will consider bringing criminal contempt referrals for Trump White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino and Trump’s onetime trade adviser Peter Navarro.
Scavino was part of the first group of individuals the committee subpoenaed in September 2021 and CNN reported that as late as October, the panel had still been unable to serve Scavino with his subpoena.
Navarro skipped his scheduled deposition in early March. In a statement provided to CNN at the time, Navarro claimed he did not show up for his deposition because of executive privilege issues.
Navarro responded to news of the committee’s contempt proceeding, by saying, it was “an unprecedented partisan assault on executive privilege. The committee knows full well that President Trump has invoked executive privilege and it is not my privilege to waive.”
“If President Trump waives the privilege, I would be happy to testify,” Navarro added. “Until this matter has been settled at the Supreme Court, where it is inevitably headed, the Committee should cease its tactics of harassment and intimidation. I would be happy to cooperate with the committee in expediting a review of this matter by the Supreme Court and look forward to arguing the case.”
In its subpoena letter to Scavino, the committee said it “has reason to believe that you have information relevant to understanding important activities that led to and informed the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and relevant to former President Trump’s activities and communications in the period leading up to and on January 6th.”
The committee also cited Scavino’s long history of working for Trump as key to providing important insight into how the then-President handled the January 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to overturn the election. The committee also cited an example of Scavino’s tweets that indicated he had encouraged participants to “be a part of history” on the day of the riot.
In its initial February subpoena letter to Navarro, the panel said it wanted to speak to him because of news reports that suggest he had worked with Trump ally and adviser Steve Bannon, among others, to help develop a plan to delay the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
The panel also cited lines from Navarro’s new book in the subpoena letter, where he calls the plan to delay and change the outcome of the election “the Green Bay Sweep” and describes the effort as the “last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats’ jaws of deceit.”
The panel is setting the stage for these possible referrals as the clock is ticking to wrap its investigation by the midterm elections next fall, and bringing such a case can be a lengthy process.
If the criminal contempt referrals clear the committee, they will head to the full House for votes. If those votes succeed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the reports to the US attorney for the District of Columbia to decide whether to prosecute.
Under law, the US attorney is required to “bring the matter before the grand jury for its action,” but the Justice Department will also make its own determination whether to prosecute.
Any individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment. But this process, which is rarely invoked, rarely leads to jail time.
As severe as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House’s choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning shot than a solution. Holding a person in criminal contempt through a prosecution could take years, and historically criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.
This would be the committee’s fourth business meeting to begin referral processes against individuals who have not cooperated with their investigation.
Bannon is the only one referred to the Justice Department so far who has been indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress. His trial date has been set for July 18.
Mark Meadows, who was White House chief of staff under Trump, was referred to the Justice Department on December 14, but no action has been taken since then.
The committee voted in favor of a criminal contempt referral for former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark on December 1, but stopped short of bringing that vote to the House floor because Clark wanted the opportunity to claim Fifth Amendment protection. He met with the committee for nearly two hours in February.
CNN’s Paula Reid contributed to this report.