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Former Trump aide Peter Navarro defies House subpoena in Covid-19 probe

Navarro cited a "direct order" from Trump to claim executive privilege.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro attends a news conference outside the White House on March 4, 2019.
Peter Navarro, then the White House trade adviser, at a news conference outside the White House on March 4, 2019.Leah Millis / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has refused to comply with a subpoena for documents issued by the congressional panel investigating the Trump administration’s pandemic response, Navarro said in a letter released by the panel.

In his refusal, Navarro cited a "direct order" from former President Donald Trump to claim executive privilege. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis made the letter public Saturday when its chairman, James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., sent a letter in response to Navarro's refusal.

"Your blanket refusal to comply with the subpoena in its entirety is improper," Clyburn said. "Courts have clearly held that White House advisers, such as yourself, cannot avoid compelled congressional process."

Navarro's letter said Trump had told him to "protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments."

"At this time, I am unable to respond to the Subpoena, based on former President Trump's invocation of executive privilege," Navarro wrote to the House panel Tuesday.

This "matter is out of my hands and something that the Sub-Committee should discuss with President Trump’s counsel," he said.

The House panel's investigation into the handling of the pandemic has come under fire from Trump allies who have said it is politically motivated. Some Republican lawmakers have also repeatedly demanded that Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, conduct hearings to hold the "Chinese Communist Party accountable" for the pandemic.

Several Trump allies are also defying subpoenas in a separate House investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. That panel said last week that it plans to move forward with contempt proceedings against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who responded by suing it.

Clyburn closes his letter to Navarro by warning that if he does not appear for a deposition scheduled for Wednesday and produce the requested documents, the committee "will interpret your actions as willful noncompliance with the subpoena."