Jan. 6 panel: Scavino, Navarro should be held in contempt

Next step is a floor vote before any possible prosecution by the Justice Department

Former White House aide Dan Scavino was recommended for contempt of Congress by the Jan. 6 panel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former White House aide Dan Scavino was recommended for contempt of Congress by the Jan. 6 panel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 28, 2022 at 8:42pm

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol on Monday voted 9-0 to recommend the House hold former presidential advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in criminal contempt of Congress for not complying with the panel’s subpoenas demanding documents and testimony from them.

The move will likely set up a floor vote. If the vote passes the Democrat-controlled House — like it did in prior contempt resolutions regarding former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon, a former adviser to former President Donald Trump — the Department of Justice will be tasked with deciding whether to pursue contempt charges against Scavino and Navarro.

Navarro served as a White House trade adviser under Trump. He published a book in late 2021 that called his plan to delay and overturn the election the “Green Bay Sweep.” In an interview about his book, Navarro said Trump was “on board with the strategy” along with over 100 members. 

The “Green Bay Sweep”  was designed to encourage Vice President Mike Pence to delay certification of the Electoral College votes and send them back to the state legislatures, a theory similar to the one espoused by by Trump lawyer John Eastman, and by Trump, the committee report says.  

On Monday, a federal judge in California ruled that Eastman needed to turn over documents to the House select committee, concluding that Trump “more likely than not” committed crimes in attempting to obstruct the counting of electoral votes.

In December 2020, Navarro released a three-part report on purported election fraud with three chapters: “The Immaculate Deception,” “The Art of the Steal,” and “Yes, President Trump Won.” That collection, known as the Navarro report, makes claims of alleged voter fraud. It was shared with people who made public statements about voter fraud in the election, including Eastman and Meadows.

The committee issued Navarro a subpoena on Feb. 9. Navarro then said in a statement that Trump invoked executive privilege and it is not Navarro’s privilege to waive. He also referred the panel to a chapter in his book about his plan to subvert the election.

The White House Counsel’s office wrote to Navarro on Feb. 28 that said President Joe Biden “has decided not to assert executive privilege” regarding Navarro’s testimony or documents. 

Ultimately, Navarro never sat for his scheduled deposition or produced documents relevant tot the inquiry. 

Scavino handled social media and communications strategy for Trump in the White House. He worked with the former president to overturn the election results by spreading false information on social media platforms concerning alleged election fraud and recruiting a crowd to Washington for Jan. 6.

The committee’s contempt report says Scavino attended several meetings with Trump to discuss challenges to the election. 

Scavino also monitored social media sites for Trump during a time when those sites suggested the possibility of violence on Jan. 6, something that the committee says in its report gives it “reason to believe” Scavino “may have had advance warning about the potential for violence on January 6th.”

The committee said it has reason to believe that Scavino was with Trump on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 during conversations on plans to disrupt the official congressional proceedings. The two spoke several times on the day of the attack, according to the panel’s report.

Scavino has been subpoenaed by the committee three times. The first, on Sept. 23, was unsuccessful because the panel couldn’t locate Scavino; Scavino challenged the second one, which was served on Oct. 8 at Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago estate, and the third was issued on Nov. 23 to Scavino’s lawyer. Thompson extended the deadlines to produce records and testimony, but Scavino refused to produce any documents or sit for a deposition, according to the committee.

The White House Counsel’s office on March 15 sent a letter to Scavino’s lawyer saying Biden would not assert executive privilege for Scavino. ‘‘President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the national interest, and therefore is not justified, with respect to particular subjects within the purview of the Select Committee,” the office wrote.

Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said Navarro and Scavino’s arguments claiming executive privilege because they were White House employees engaged in official business are not legitimate.

“They potentially played a part in an attack on American democracy, but they can ignore our investigation because they worked for the government at the time. That’s their argument,” Thompson said. “They’re not fooling anybody. They are obligated to comply with our investigation. They have refused to do so. And that’s a crime.”

Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, said the panel has numerous questions for Scavino and Navarro. With regard to Scavino, she said they want to know about his political social media work for Trump, including his interactions with the QAnon conspiracy network.

“President Trump, working with Mr. Scavino, successfully spread distrust for our courts — which had repeatedly found no basis to overturn the election,” Cheney said.

Navarro is also a key witness, Cheney said, noting that although he wrote a book boasting about his planning role in Jan. 6, he “does not have the courage to testify here.”

The panel also has questions for Scavino’s communications with Roger Stone and Steve Bannon.

Each count of contempt of Congress carries a maximum fine of $100,000 and up to a year in federal prison. 

Bannon was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for not complying with the panel’s subpoena. His trial is scheduled to begin in July.

The House voted 222-208 to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress, but the Department of Justice has yet to act on it.

The Jan. 6 committee has previously recommended the House hold former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in contempt, but a floor vote has not yet occurred.