U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta shot down former top Trump White House economic adviser Peter Navarro’s argument that Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over testimony Navarro was subpoenaed to give to the Jan. 6 House select committee in winter 2022.
“There was no formal invocation of executive privilege by [Trump] after personal consideration nor authorization to Mr. Navarro to invoke privilege on his behalf,” Mehta said, according to Politico reporter Kyle Cheney.
That means his trial for contempt of Congress will begin next week, with jury selection slated to start September 5.
The Jan. 6 select committee first subpoenaed Navarro in Feb. 2022 as part of its investigation into the attack on the Capitol and Trump and his allies’ actions in the days and weeks leading up to it. Navarro refused to comply with the subpoena asking him to testify and wouldn’t turn over relevant records. In response, he was charged on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress.
During the Wednesday hearing, Mehta ordered that Navarro’s contempt of Congress trial move forward as the former Trump administration official had not convinced him that Trump explicitly asserted privilege over Navarro’s potential testimony to the Jan. 6 committee.
The judge noted that even if privilege was invoked, Navarro would have still had to show up and assert the privilege on a question-by-question basis, and produce a privilege log for the committee.
The judge hinted at his thinking during the Monday pre-trial hearing — where Navarro testified in his own defense — calling his arguments “pretty weak sauce.”
“I still don’t know what the president said,” Mehta told Navarro’s attorney Stanley Woodward this week, referring to a Feb. 2022 call between Trump and Navarro. Navarro has repeatedly pointed to this call as proof that the former president made it clear to him that he was invoking executive privilege over Navarro’s congressional testimony. But Navarro’s lawyer told the judge earlier this month that Trump was not expected to testify on Navarro’s behalf to back up his claims.
“I don’t have any words from the former president,” Mehta said. “That’s pretty weak sauce.”