This afternoon, Trump’s econ crank Peter Navarro and his legal professionals appeared earlier than a skeptical US District Choose Amit Mehta to argue for dismissal of the contempt of congress case in opposition to him after he informed the January 6 Choose Committee to get bent and refused to point out up and testify.
Navarro and his buddy Steve Bannon weren’t coy about their plot to disrupt the certification of President Biden’s electoral certification on January 6, 2021. They dubbed their plan the Inexperienced Bay Sweep, blabbed about it incessantly on Bannon’s present, and Navarro even wrote a guide about it. Nonetheless, when the committee got here knocking, each of them refused to interact in any respect, claiming govt privilege.
Bannon’s trial happened earlier than Choose Carl Nichols, who refused to allow the defendant’s varied public cost and estoppel defenses primarily based on memoranda from the Workplace of Authorized Counsel purportedly inferring categorical immunity on former presidential advisors from congressional subpoena. Bannon was convicted on each costs in July, however that’s not stopping his pal Pete from operating the identical play.
Bannon’s declare to govt privilege was particularly tenuous, since he was fired from the White Home in 2017, in contrast to Navarro who caught it out to the bitter finish in 2021. However Bannon had one thing Navarro didn’t have, which was a letter from Donald Trump’s lawyer Justin Clark instructing him to “invoke any privilege you might have” — not that it did him a lot good.
Navarro has no such written communication. However he insists that the privilege was duly invoked — maybe telepathically, in the identical method through which Donald Trump declassified paperwork! — and thus he had no accountability to interact with the committee in any respect.
Based on his lawyer Stanley Woodward, Navarro does have proof although. It’s “testimonial,” as in recognized to him and Trump.
Will the protection be placing the both of these events on the stand? It is not going to, selecting “to not contain” the previous president, and demurring that “we’re not ready to place our consumer on the stand.” And extra energy to them, though it’s quite rather a lot to ask the court docket to simply have religion that such proof might exist and dismiss the case primarily based on it.
“You aren’t even telling me that he whispered in his ear. You’ve given me nothing,” Choose Mehta famous testily.
“We’re saying Trump invoked,” Woodward responded.
“Based mostly on that, you need me to dismiss the indictment?” the decide mentioned incredulously?
In truth, they did. Or, primarily based on the suggestion of a whisper, plus testimony from Trump’s legal professionals to the grand jury that they didn’t invoke privilege in writing for Navarro, as they did for Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Bannon as a result of “Dr. Navarro has his personal channels of communication with the previous president and is aware of what his directions are.”
That is nonsensical on its face. Meadows stays shut with the previous president, and Scavino appears to journey with him from rally to rally. Absolutely they’ve the identical entry to Trump’s whispers as Navarro. However Bannon, Scavino, and Meadows had one thing Navarro didn’t have until recently, which was competent counsel who sought out the previous president’s consultant to safe a written invocation.
Woodward had a solution for that one, although, and it was that the committee was obliged to go negotiate with Trump to find out the scope of privilege, as a result of Navarro couldn’t probably are available in and focus on issues he’d already written about in his guide with out permission from the previous president.
“They made no effort to barter the scope of privilege with the privilege holder,” he complained to a skeptical decide, including that “This entire prosecution might have been averted with a telephone name.”
The court docket was equally doubtful that Trump may need made a standing invocation order by writing a common letter expressing his want for Trump administration officers to refuse to cooperate with the coronavirus committee’s investigation.
Woodward additionally steered himself into rocky shoals when requested if an advisor would possibly invoke privilege absent instruction from the president.
“The privilege belongs to the workplace,” he responded, solely to have Choose Mehta shoot again that “The workplace holder has not invoked it,” a reference to the waiver of privilege by President Biden, the incumbent.
And that wasn’t the one alternate that acquired testy.
“I don’t suppose that’s good legislation” Woodward mentioned concerning a precedential case invoked by prosecutors.
“DC Circuit, Supreme Courtroom, that’s not good legislation?” the court docket replied.
In a closing Hail Mary move, one other member of Navarro’s authorized staff tried to say that the prosecution itself violated due course of, since Navarro had studied prior OLC memos and had the subjective perception that he had a magical cloak of immunity to congressional course of.
The court docket listened kind of patiently to all of the arguments, and didn’t rule on the movement to dismiss from the bench. It did, nevertheless, flip instantly to the problem of scheduling the trial, with a watch to beginning on November 16. Which isn’t precisely auspicious for the protection’s trigger.
US v. Navarro [Docket via Court Listener]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore the place she writes about legislation and politics.