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Judge denies Peter Navarro request to stay free pending appeal

Former Trump adviser is appealing conviction of contempt of Congress related to Jan. 6 panel

Peter Navarro, former adviser to Donald Trump, arrives to E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse last month to be sentenced on contempt of Congress charges.
Peter Navarro, former adviser to Donald Trump, arrives to E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse last month to be sentenced on contempt of Congress charges. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A federal judge in Washington on Thursday denied former Trump adviser Peter Navarro’s request to stay out of custody during his attempt to overturn his conviction and four-month prison sentence on two charges of contempt of Congress.

Navarro made the request to Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after a sentencing hearing last month.

Mehta, in his ruling Thursday, said Navarro’s arguments didn’t meet the legal standard — an appeal containing a “substantial question” — to remain free while the legal process played out.

Absent separate action from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Navarro may soon have to report to prison following his conviction for refusing to testify and provide documents to the select panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Throughout the case Navarro has argued that former President Donald Trump invoked executive privilege, which meant he should not be held in contempt. Navarro reiterated that argument in a filing asking to remain free pending appeal.

Mehta pointed out in the ruling Thursday Navarro did not present evidence that Trump invoked executive privilege in response to the committee’s subpoena, even though he had multiple opportunities to do so.

And the judge wrote that Navarro’s argument that Trump had a presumption of executive privilege is not a “substantial question” for the appeals court.

“Whether a President’s invocation is required to assert executive privilege is not a substantial question. The answer is surely ‘yes,’” Mehta wrote.

Mehta also ruled against Navarro’s argument that the Biden administration chose to target him for his ties to Trump. During the sentencing hearing, Mehta had pointed out that numerous other people who were closer to Trump, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and spokesman Dan Scavino, were not charged for their unwillingness to testify before the Jan. 6 panel.

“Defendant’s cynical, self-serving claim of political bias poses no question at all, let alone a ‘substantial’ one,” Mehta wrote Thursday.

An attorney for Navarro declined to comment on Mehta’s ruling.

A jury in September convicted Navarro, who has appealed. The D.C. Circuit has said it would decide the legal issues without hearing oral argument.

Steve Bannon, the only other person convicted of contempt of Congress in connection with the Jan. 6 panel, also has an appeal pending at the D.C. Circuit. In that case, Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allowed Bannon to stay out of custody during the appeal.

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