WASHINGTON — Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro was convicted Thursday of criminal contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena related to the plot to overturn the 2020 election.
The jury deliberated for about four hours at a federal courthouse in Washington before it found Navarro guilty of two counts of contempt for refusing to testify before the House Jan. 6 committee and turn over subpoenaed documents.
Each count carries a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in prison, in addition to a maximum fine of $100,000.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta scheduled sentencing for Jan. 12.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict, Navarro seemed more upset about the protesters standing behind him.
"Sad day for America, not because of the guilty verdicts, but because I can’t come out and have an honest, decent conversation with the people of America," he said, complaining about the "divide" in the country and "the woke Marxist left."
"This is nuts," he added.
Navarro said he wasn't surprised by the quick verdict. "We knew going in what the verdict was going to be,” he said. “That is why this is going to the appeals court."
One of his attorneys, John Rowley, said, “This case is not over by a long shot.”
Navarro’s lawyers also moved for a mistrial after the verdict was read, telling the judge that the jury had gone outside for a break during deliberations and would have been exposed to protesters outside the courthouse with signs about Jan. 6.
The jury said it had reached a verdict about 10 minutes after the break, Navarro lawyer Stanley Woodward said.
Mehta told Woodward to file a motion based on his concerns and said he would consider the issue later.
In his closing argument Thursday morning, Woodward said the government had failed to prove Navarro was guilty of criminal contempt of Congress.
“For the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it also has to prove that Dr. Navarro’s failure to comply with the subpoena was not the result of accident, mistake or inadvertence,” Woodward said, stressing the final three words repeatedly.
“This case is about those three words,” he said, adding that the government had failed to tell jurors where Navarro was when he was supposed to have appeared for his deposition with the Jan. 6 committee.
On rebuttal, prosecutor John Crabb said: "Who cares where he was? What matters is where he wasn't."
Navarro, 74, has said he didn't appear because former President Donald Trump had told him he should assert executive privilege in the case, although Trump never communicated that to the Jan. 6 committee or submitted any information in Navarro's case saying he'd done so.
Prosecutors said Navarro had a duty to show up anyway and answer what questions he could.
“Contempt means disrespecting the rule of law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said in her closing argument. She said Navarro "knew he was commanded to appear and produce documents, and he chose not to for whatever reason.”
“It does not matter that the defendant refused to comply because he believed the former president had asserted executive privilege,” Aloi said.
“If people like the defendant can choose to ignore the government’s subpoenas, the work of our government to serve its people cannot get done,” she added.
The trial moved quickly; jury selection was Tuesday, and opening statements and witness testimony were wrapped up by late Wednesday afternoon.
On his way in Thursday morning, Navarro told reporters that “today is judgment day” and said he’s a victim of a “weaponized Biden Justice Department.”
The jury began deliberations shortly after 11 a.m. ET Thursday. "We're in God's hands now," Navarro said on X, formerly Twitter, in the early afternoon while asking for donations to his legal defense fund to "fight these weaponized partisan bastards."
Navarro was indicted last year on two counts of contempt of Congress: one for failing to provide documents and the other for failing to provide testimony.
Woodward told the jury in his opening statement that Navarro didn’t dispute many of the facts presented in the case, including that he had been issued and accepted a subpoena and that he had neither appeared for testimony nor produced records as required. But Woodward argued that Navarro hadn’t willfully failed to comply with the subpoena, a crucial part of the case.
Prosecutors called three staff members of the Jan. 6 committee as witnesses, while the defense didn’t call any witnesses.
Before the trial, Navarro made several claims of executive privilege to avoid the contempt charges. He argued that Trump had directed him to invoke a power that can be used to protect presidential deliberations to shield him from sharing information with the Jan. 6 panel.
In a ruling last week, Mehta rejected that argument, noting that the “extraordinary assertion of power” afforded by executive privilege was “not to be lightly invoked” and highlighting an absence of evidence to support Navarro’s claim.
Navarro is one of a number of Trump allies who have been held in contempt of Congress in recent years.
Last year, a jury found former White House strategist Steve Bannon guilty on two counts of contempt of Congress over his failure to cooperate with a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee. He was sentenced to four months behind bars and a $6,500 fine.
He is appealing and has yet to serve his sentence.
In 2021, the Democratic-led House found former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt over his refusal to answer questions about the Capitol riot. The Justice Department declined to prosecute Meadows, who had turned over some emails and documents to the Jan. 6 committee.
Daniel Barnes and Gary Grumbach reported from Washington. Dareh Gregorian and Zoë Richards reported from New York.