House holds top Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the January 6 committee

House holds top Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the January 6 committee

The House of Representatives voted to hold top Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress. The vote triggers a criminal referral to the Justice Department, meaning Navarro and Scavino could be prosecuted. Wednesday’s vote comes after both men failed to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot. Loading…

  • The House of Representatives voted to hold top Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress.
  • The vote triggers a criminal referral to the Justice Department, meaning Navarro and Scavino could be prosecuted.
  • Wednesday’s vote comes after both men failed to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot.

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The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to hold the former top Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress.

The 220-203 vote, which was largely along party lines, came after both men failed to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Wednesday’s vote triggers a criminal referral to the Justice Department, meaning Navarro and Scavino could be prosecuted on contempt charges. It’s the fourth time the House has referred resistant witnesses to the department for prosecution.

The chamber previously recommended criminal contempt charges against former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Bannon was charged with two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress in December, and the department is currently weighing whether to bring charges against Meadows. The January 6 select committee also voted to recommend criminal charges against the former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, but the matter has not yet come to a full floor vote.

Lawmakers became heated at times as they debated the contempt votes.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy slammed Democrats for punishing dissent in their efforts to compel Scavino and Navarro’s cooperation.

“The riot on January 6 was wrong,” McCarthy said on the House floor Wednesday. “Any violence on that day should be punished. But make no mistake, the Democrats’ response is also wrong. For 15 months, Democrats have used January 6 as a blank check to trample on civil rights and congressional norms.”

—The Hill (@thehill) April 6, 2022

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who serves on the January 6 select committee, fired back at McCarthy and said he was instrumental in torpedoing a proposal for an independent 9/11-style commission to investigate the deadly insurrection.

“We were going to have a 9/11-style, independent commission,” Raskin said on the floor. “And you know what happened? You know who vetoed it? The fourth branch of government, Donald Trump, who some of their members slavishly report to like sycophants.”

“And Donald Trump said he didn’t want any investigation into the attack on this body,” Raskin said, growing more impassioned as he spoke. “The Congress of the United States … And you know what the minority leader did? He walked it back. They pulled the plug on the independent commission.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland has stayed relatively mum on the department’s internal deliberations regarding contempt referrals. Asked Wednesday about the status of the Meadows referral, Garland told reporters, “We will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead.”

Democrats have become increasingly critical of Garland’s leadership as Meadows’ case drags out.

Bannon, meanwhile, is set to go to trial in July. Earlier Wednesday, a federal judge dealt a blow to Bannon when he ruled that the former chief strategist cannot use a key pillar of his defense strategy, known as the advice of counsel defense. In other words, Bannon cannot justify his refusal to cooperate with the January 6 select panel by saying he was following his lawyer’s advice when he defied the committee’s subpoenas.

The committee is interested in Scavino given his position in Trump’s inner circle and the fact that he’s one of the few aides who was given access to the former president’s Twitter account before it was permanently suspended. The January 6 panel believes Scavino has information about “the communications strategy of the former President and his supporters” in the days leading up to the Capitol riot, and the original subpoena Scavino was served described him as a witness to Trump’s activities that day.

Navarro, for his part, has drawn significant scrutiny for writing about and describing to Rolling Stone a detailed plot to overturn the election results. He called the plan the “Green Bay sweep” and said it was designed to get state legislatures to decertify presidential election results so that lawmakers could unilaterally hand the election to Trump.

“… The more likely scenario based on our assessment of the evidence was that states would withdraw any certification,” Navarro told Rolling Stone. “And the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives. And even though the House is controlled by Democrats, the way votes would be counted in a presidential election decided by the House, Trump would almost certainly win.”

Once a rare step, lawmakers are increasingly voting to hold uncooperative witnesses in contempt of Congress when they defy subpoenas and document requests.

Criminal contempt cases depend entirely on whether the Justice Department decides it has enough evidence to prosecute and secure a conviction, and the civil route can take a notoriously long time to settle.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives held then-attorney general Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in 2012, after he refused to turn over documents related to a gun-running investigation known as Operation: Fast and Furious. The Justice Department — which Holder spearheaded as attorney general — declined to bring criminal charges against him, forcing Republicans to take the civil route. In 2019, seven years later, a settlement was finally reached.

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