Peter Navarro, a former senior advisor to President Donald Trump, may soon be forced to begin serving a prison sentence after being found guilty of criminal contempt of Congress charges.
Navarro, who advised Trump on trade policy and the pandemic, has been ordered by a federal judge to report to prison for a four-month sentence.
However, the order came despite a pending appeal of his earlier conviction on two counts of contempt of Congress, The Washington Post reported.
He had been charged with the two counts of contempt after he defied a subpoena from the Democrat-controlled House Jan. 6 Select Committee that demanded he turn over certain documents as well as testify in a sworn deposition.
According to a 12-page opinion and order from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, Navarro had asked to be released from any prison sentence pending appeal, and that request was partially granted in so far as he was granted a temporary delay to file a brief laying out his arguments for why he shouldn’t be imprisoned.
Navarro did exactly that, but Mehta just denied the motion for continued release pending appeal and rejected all four grounds that Navarro had argued due to a determination that none of them raised a “substantial question of law,” or a “close call” that could have been decided either way.
That included dismissing Navarro’s contention that he had a “good-faith belief that President Trump had invoked executive privilege, which excused him from compliance.”
The judge also rejected the defendant’s assertion that Trump’s claimed executive privilege made him immune from prosecution for contempt of Congress.
The problem there, as the judge explained, is that Navarro was unable to provide any evidence that Trump himself had ever properly invoked his executive privilege on Navarro’s behalf concerning the select committee’s subpoena.
Judge Mehta wasn’t finished yet, though.
He also struck down Navarro’s claim that the contempt charges and resultant prosecution and conviction had been “motivated by political bias.”
The judge wrote that Navarro “offers no actual proof to support that contention.”
“If anything, the record demonstrates just the opposite,” Mehta further asserted.
This was because two other senior Trump aides — former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino — both similarly defied subpoenas from the same committee.
However, they managed to avoid prosecution for their non-compliance.
“Defendant’s cynical, self-serving claim of political bias poses no question at all, let alone a ‘substantial’ one,” Mehta declared.
The judge concluded:
“For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s request for release pending appeal is denied.
“Unless this Order is stayed or vacated by the D.C. Circuit, Defendant shall report to the designated Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility on the date ordered by the BOP.”
Politico reported that a date for Navarro to report to prison has not yet been set, and it remains possible that he could still avoid serving that sentence if the D.C. appeals court intervenes promptly.
That said, it is looking likely that Navarro will be the first member of former President Trump’s “inner circle” of senior aides and advisors who will go to prison in relation to the post-2020 election efforts to challenge the disputed results in certain states.
Navarro was accused by the Democrat-led Jan. 6 Committee of being a key player in developing a strategy to have members of Congress and state legislatures take action to challenge the reported results, either during the Jan. 6 congressional certification — which was briefly disrupted by the Capitol riot — or at the state level.