Skip to content

Supreme Court denies Navarro bid to delay start of prison sentence

Former Trump adviser faces 4-month sentence for contempt of Congress

Peter Navarro, former trade adviser to Donald Trump, arrives to E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in January to be sentenced for contempt of Congress.
Peter Navarro, former trade adviser to Donald Trump, arrives to E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in January to be sentenced for contempt of Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro appears bound to start his prison sentence for contempt of Congress after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute bid Monday to stay free while he challenges his convictions.

Navarro’s attorneys asked the Supreme Court to intervene because they said he has been ordered to report to prison Tuesday for his 4-month sentence.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., acting alone in a one-page opinion, declined to do so and left in place a lower court order that would have Navarro serve out the sentence while he appeals.

Roberts, who handles emergency cases from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, denied the request without referring it to the full Supreme Court. Roberts wrote that he saw “no basis” to overturn the D.C. Circuit decision from last week that rejected Navarro’s arguments.

“I see no basis to disagree with the determination that Navarro forfeited those arguments in the release proceeding, which is distinct from his pending appeal on the merits,” Roberts wrote.

A federal jury convicted Navarro on two counts of contempt of Congress last year after he defied two subpoenas from the select House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Navarro has since appealed that conviction, arguing he was obligated to assert executive privilege on behalf of former President Donald Trump.

Last month, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied Navarro’s request to remain free while that appeal plays out, finding it didn’t present a substantial enough legal question.

Prior to the trial, Mehta ruled that although Navarro believed he had to assert executive privilege, there was no evidence Trump had actually invoked it at the time. The judge also ruled that executive privilege would not have allowed Navarro to simply ignore the subpoena.

In a similar decision last week, the three-judge D.C. Circuit panel rejected Navarro’s effort to stay out of prison. The panel ruled that Navarro’s argument “presupposes that privilege has actually been invoked in this case in some manner by the President. That did not happen here.”

The panel also wrote that even if executive privilege had been invoked, Navarro would not have been able to ignore the subpoena as he had.

“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,” the panel wrote.

Navarro was one of several witnesses who refused to cooperate with subpoenas from the House select panel investigating the Capitol attack. The panel voted to hold Navarro and a handful of other witnesses in contempt and the full House voted to refer Navarro for criminal charges.

Navarro served as a trade adviser through the end of the Trump presidency and was an outspoken proponent of Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. In the waning months of 2020, Navarro published a three-part report on purported election fraud and later a book titled “In Trump Time” in which he discussed efforts to keep Trump in office after he lost the election.

The committee subpoenaed Navarro for documents and testimony surrounding those efforts, which committee attorneys claimed would fall outside of Navarro’s service as trade adviser.

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.

Recent Stories

Case highlights debate over ‘life of the mother’ exception

Supreme Court split on Idaho abortion ban in emergency rooms

Donald Payne Jr., who filled father’s seat in the House, dies at 65

Biden signs foreign aid bill, says weapons to be sent to allies within hours

Airlines must report fees, issue prompt refunds, new rules say

Capitol Ink | B Movie