Jan. 6 committee refers Trump aides Scavino and Navarro for criminal contempt charges

·6 min read

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Monday referred two more former Trump administration officials for criminal charges for their refusal to testify.

The committee voted 9-0 in favor of referring criminal charges for former Trump White House aides Dan Scavino Jr. and Peter Navarro. That recommendation will now be sent to the full House of Representatives for a vote. If that vote passes, the referral would be passed on to the Justice Department.

“These men, Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro are in contempt of Congress,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said ahead of the vote on Monday. “They potentially played a part in an attack on American democracy.”

Dan Scavino Jr.
Dan Scavino Jr., White House deputy chief of staff during the Trump administration. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Sunday night, the committee released a 34-page report outlining its case against Scavino and Navarro for failing to comply with subpoenas compelling them to provide testimony and documents detailing their roles in Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Thompson noted that both former Trump officials attempted to argue that, because they were working in the White House at the time of the riot, the information the committee requested was “shielded by executive privilege.”

“They’re not fooling anybody,” said Thompson. “They’re obligated to comply with our investigation. They have refused to do so and that’s a crime.”

Scavino, a loyal Trump ally who served as one of the former president’s first campaign staffers before going on to become White House deputy chief of staff, also managed the former president’s social media accounts. According to the committee, Scavino “was responsible for social media and communications strategy for the former President, including with respect to the Trump Campaign’s post-election efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.”

“Mr. Scavino reportedly attended several meetings with the President in which challenges to the election were discussed,” reads the committee’s report. “Mr. Scavino also tracked social media on behalf of President Trump, and he did so at a time when sites reportedly frequented by Mr. Scavino suggested the possibility of violence on January 6th.”

The report cites news articles about Scavino monitoring sites such as “TheDonald.win,” which it describes as “an online forum frequented by individuals who openly advocated and planned violence in the weeks leading up to January 6th.” The report states that “Mr. Scavino may have had advance warning about the potential for violence on January 6th.”

Peter Navarro
Peter Navarro, the former director of the National Trade Council and a staunch Trump ally. (Stefani Reynolds/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The committee accuses Scavino of using a variety of stall tactics to avoid engaging with the investigation, noting that it has so far delayed Scavino’s deposition six times since he was first issued a subpoena back in September.

Scavino has pushed back against the panel’s requests for information. In January, he sued Verizon to prevent his phone records from being turned over to the committee, and his lawyers have argued that President Biden does not have the authority to waive executive privilege over Scavino’s testimony.

Navarro has also attempted to use Trump’s assertions of executive privilege as a shield against testifying before the select committee, despite having been outspoken about his role in planning to help subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The former White House trade adviser has said that he worked with Steve Bannon and other allies of Trump to develop a plan they dubbed the “Green Bay Sweep” to delay the formal count of the Electoral College results by Congress to buy time to change the outcome.

“The plan was simply this: We had over 100 congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill ready to implement the sweep,” Navarro recalled in an interview with MSNBC on Jan. 4, 2022. “The sweep was simply that. We were gonna challenge the results of the election in the six battleground states. They were Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada. And basically these were the places where we believed that if the votes were sent back to those battleground states and looked at again, that there would be enough concern amongst the legislatures that most or all of those states would decertify the election.”

Navarro even detailed the so-called operation in his book “In Trump Time,” published in November. Navarro also wrote a 36-page report alleging election fraud as part of what he called an “Immaculate Deception,” and has accused former Vice President Mike Pence of betrayal for refusing to help them overturn the election.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, Rep. Liz Cheney, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, and Rep. Jamie Raskin
From left: Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, with colleagues Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Rep. Jamie Raskin. D-Md. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“Mr. Navarro appears to have information directly relevant to the Select Committee’s investigation into the causes of the January 6th attack on the Capitol," Thompson said in a statement announcing its subpoena of Navarro. “He hasn’t been shy about his role in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and has even discussed the former President’s support for those plans.”

The committee says it informed Navarro that many of the topics it wanted to discuss with him were not protected by executive privilege, such as notes that Navarro already wrote about in detail in his book.

Monday’s vote will mark the fourth time the select committee has sought to advance a contempt referral for Trump allies over their failure to cooperate with its investigation of the events that led up to the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which resulted in five deaths and left more than 140 police officers injured.

So far, only the first of those referrals, for Bannon, has resulted in a federal indictment for criminal contempt of Congress.

The Justice Department is still considering whether to prosecute former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after the full House voted to refer him for contempt charges in December. The committee also voted to advance another contempt referral for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in November, but that one never made it to the full House after Clark agreed to sit for an interview with the committee, during which he invoked the 5th Amendment more than 100 times.

The latest contempt referrals come amid reports that the committee will soon request an interview with Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist who is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. It was reported last week that the panel has obtained 29 text messages between Thomas and Meadows in the weeks after the 2020 election in which she urged the former president’s top aide to keep fighting to overturn the results of the vote and keep Trump in power. Thomas also recently revealed that she attended the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally at the Capitol Ellipse, though she says was not involved in organizing the rally, which preceded the attack at the U.S. Capitol, and insists she left before things turned violent.

It’s not clear whether the committee intends to subpoena Thomas if she does not agree to sit for an interview voluntarily, as more than 750 witnesses have already done. That list will reportedly soon include Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who served as a senior White House aide during his presidency. It was reported Monday that Kushner is expected to appear voluntarily before the committee as early as Thursday.

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