A Trump Aide Is Now Stonewalling Congress On COVID, Too

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro speaks to members of the press outside the West Wing of the White House June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. Navarro spoke on former Nat... WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro speaks to members of the press outside the West Wing of the White House June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. Navarro spoke on former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new book “The Room Where It Happened.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS

It’s not just the Jan. 6 committee: Trump administration alumni are also stonewalling a congressional investigation into the governments’ response to COVID-19. 

Specifically, Peter Navarro — a prominent face of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic — says he will not be cooperating with the investigation because… Trump said not to. 

Navarro’s claim gestures back to an angry public statement from Trump in November, in which the former president panned “Communist Democrats” who he said were trying to smear his administration’s “unprecedented and incredible coronavirus response.” 

“I’m telling Peter Navarro to protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments,” Trump wrote. “The Witch Hunts must end.” 

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That, Navarro wrote to the committee investigating him last week, “is a direct order that I should not comply” with the committee’s subpoena for documents. In other words, he wrote, “this matter is out of my hands.”

(Navarro also incorrectly addressed his reply to Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to “Representative Rayburn.”)

The stonewalling from Navarro comes amid a wave of it from former Trump advisors and administration officials: Steve Bannon is facing a criminal contempt of Congress charge for refusing to cooperate with the congressional Jan. 6 Committee. He’s pleaded not guilty and a trial date is set for July.  

Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who schemed with Trump to use the DOJ to overturn the election results, has said he’ll plead the Fifth in response to congressional Jan. 6 questions. 

So has John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who advised the White House and then-Vice President Mike Pence on efforts to overturn the election. Trump confidante and pardon recipient Roger Stone has said the same, and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows recently announced that he would stop cooperating with the committee, and promptly filed a lawsuit against it. Meadows had been cooperating, and had turned over scores of records to the investigation already. 

Clyburn responded to Navarro on Saturday. The former Trump staffer has no valid excuse to ignore the congressional subpoena, particularly because he’s already written at length about his government work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in a recent book and press tour, Clyburn wrote.

The subcommittee chair cited several details of the Navarro’s government COVID work that are already public, including records of him discussing eight- and nine-figure government contracts and loans. 

Clyburn concluded that if Navarro missed a Dec. 15 deadline for records and a deposition, “the Select Subcommittee will interpret your actions as willful noncompliance with the subpoena.”

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