A federal judge has rejected a request by former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro to be allowed to stay out of prison while he appeals a conviction for contempt of Congress.
Mr. Navarro’s legal team has argued that the questions he raised about executive privilege meet the major questions doctrine of legal interpretation. This doctrine states that courts should rely on relevant executive branch agencies to resolve significant regulatory policy questions.
Judge Mehta had rejected Mr. Navarro’s privilege claims earlier in the case, stating that during his trial, Mr. Navarro’s team never presented evidence that President Trump asserted a privilege claim over his testimony. Mr. Navarro had claimed President Trump had asserted his privilege verbally in a February 2022 phone call, but Judge Mehta ruled that he had “not carried his burden of establishing a formal claim of privilege from President Trump.”
In his Thursday ruling, Judge Mehta acknowledged that the exact requirements to invoke executive privilege properly remains an open question before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals but said, “After over a year of litigation, Defendant still has not offered what he thinks is required for a proper invocation of executive privilege.”
Judge Rejects Political Bias Argument
In addition to rejecting Mr. Navarro’s arguments about executive privilege, Judge Mehta also rejected the argument made by Navarro’s team during sentencing that his prosecution for contempt of Congress was motivated by political bias.
Mr. Navarro has argued that there was political bias in his case. He noted that three assistant U.S. attorneys who had organized a letter to then-Attorney General Bill Barr challenging allegations of fraud in the 2020 election ended up on the same prosecution team that investigated and charged him.
According to Mr. Navarro’s legal team, prosecutors injected an improper bias into his trial. They argued that this was done when the prosecutors associated his prosecution with the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021. Additionally, Mr. Navarro’s legal team claimed that the prosecutors continued to cast doubt on his case during the trial by insinuating that it had to do with a refusal to honor the historic U.S. tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.
Judge Mehta ruled Mr. Navarro’s legal team “offers no actual proof to support” their contention that political bias motivated the prosecution. Further, the federal judge argued that the record reflects the opposite of political bias because the Department of Justice had declined to prosecute two other former Trump advisors—former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Dan Scavino—for contempt of Congress.
Navarro Could Appeal Conviction Up to SCOTUS
In an interview with NTD’s “Capitol Report” last month, Mr. Navarro expressed his belief that his questions about executive privilege could eventually become an issue for the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve.
Mr. Navarro said after he first raised the issue of executive privilege to the Jan. 6 committee, the committee should have reached out to President Trump to clear up any dispute over his privilege claims rather than proceed instead with moving to consider him in contempt and requesting his prosecution by the DOJ.
“I was more than happy to comply with that subpoena if they simply called the president and asked for a waiver of the privilege,” Mr. Navarro said at the time. “And I think it tells the lie, in this whole case, that they never made one phone call, they never lifted a finger to call him to get the information they claimed they needed to have. Had they made that one phone call, we wouldn’t be sitting here.”
It remains to be seen how Mr. Navarro’s efforts to appeal his criminal conviction will play out. Whether he should remain out of prison during the appeal process is being treated as a separate issue for the court. In his Thursday ruling, Judge Mehta said unless the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacates his ruling, Mr. Navarro shall report to prison on time.
NTD News reached out to Mr. Navarro’s legal team about whether he will seek an appeals court ruling to remain out of prison while he appeals his underlying case. The attorneys did not respond by press time.