Former White House trade advisor and prominent Big Lie evangelizer Peter Navarro pleaded not guilty to two counts of contempt of Congress Thursday during a brief hearing in which his lawyers attempted to convince a federal judge to set a trial date for next year so Navarro has time to promote his next book.
For now, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the Washington, D.C. District Court didn’t bite: He scheduled a tentative trial date for Navarro for Nov. 17, and set a status conference for next month.
After previously indicating that he wished to act as his own lawyer — leading to a scolding from the court for sending emails without CC’ing prosecutors — Navarro was represented Friday by two attorneys, John P. Rowley, III and John S. Irving. They confirmed to the court that they were moving to dismiss a civil lawsuit that Navarro had filed against the Justice Department and the committee.
Irving told Mehta that he and Rowley would need several weeks to review Navarro’s case, as well as that of Steve Bannon, the only other Trump aide to be charged with contempt of Congress for stonewalling the Jan. 6 committee. He also stressed that Navarro hoped to push the trial date to next year to allow him to promote his upcoming book in time for Christmas.
“Mr. Navarro has a book that’s coming out, and his latter part of the year, especially November and December, is going to be a time where he’s going to be on the road a lot, trying to promote that book, which is important to him in terms of his income and whatnot — it’s not a trivial matter.”
“The book comes out in September, the marketing starts in August, and then runs heavily all the way through Dec. 25, and even more so toward the latter part of the year,” he added later.
“It’s also going to distract him, as a practical matter, from helping Mr. Rowley and I,” Irving said.
For their part, federal prosecutors said they were prepared for “the earliest possible date” and said “the government has serious concerns about delaying trial for a book tour.”
Mehta, who stressed several times that his schedule was packed with Jan. 6 cases, set a timeline for both sides to file motions and said he was “trying to thread the needle here and balance everyone’s interests,” including the public interest in the trial occurring.
Mehta said the earliest trial date he could set if the trial doesn’t occur this year would be in April. “I think we ought to get this done a little sooner than that,” he said.
The judge did note, seemingly referring to Navarro’s lawyers’ stated need to examine the legal questions behind the case, “it’s not that complicated a case.”
Standing outside the courthouse after the hearing, Navarro made sure to plug the book — available for pre-order now on Amazon! he noted — and described it both as a dive into “how we lost the White House in 2020, and how we’re going to win it back in 2024” and as “a blueprint and battle cry from taking back the House of Representatives from the Pelosi-ites who really are the fruit of this poisonous tree.”
Navarro was the key promoter of the so-called “Green Bay Sweep” — his signature iteration of the Trumpian plan to delay the certification of Joe Biden’s victory to allow time to pressure state legislators into overturning the election results.
The Jan. 6 Committee issued a subpoena to Navarro in February, which he promptly ignored, eventually telling the committee, “President Trump has invoked Executive Privilege in this matter … Accordingly, my hands are tied.” The committee held a contempt of Congress vote in April and a federal grand jury approved an indictment earlier this month.
Navarro was the first Trump official arrested by federal agents — who he allegedly referred to as “kind Nazis” during the arrest — in relation to Jan. 6. Authorities detained him at Reagan National Airport on June 3, and the former White House trade advisor ranted and raved about the injustice visited upon him during his first courtroom appearance a few hours later before being released from custody. In an impromptu press conference after the hearing, Navarro launched into what prosecutors later called “an almost 18-minute extrajudicial statement about the pending criminal case.”
The former Trump aide faces two contempt counts, one each for refusing to provide subpoenaed testimony and records to the committee. The DOJ recently declined to charge two other Trump officials, Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino, referred by Congress for contempt. Bannon was allowed to surrender to authorities.
Notably, last month, Navarro revealed that he had been subpoenaed by a federal criminal grand jury seeking information about the other subpoena he’d received from the Jan. 6 committee, as well as “any communications with former President Trump and/or his counsel or representatives,” raising questions about whether federal prosecutors were zeroing in on potential criminal activity within the White House related to the Capitol insurrection.
Navarro referred to the federal grand jury subpoena as the “fruit of the poisonous tree,” arguing that the Jan. 6 committee was itself illegitimate, though a federal judge rejected that argument from Bannon on Wednesday.