Jan. 6 Panel Warns of Contempt Charges Against Two More Trump Allies


WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said on Thursday that it would consider contempt of Congress charges against two more allies of former President Donald J. Trump for refusing to comply with its subpoenas.

The potential charges against Peter Navarro, a former White House adviser, and Dan Scavino Jr., a former deputy chief of staff, could result in jail time and a hefty fine, and must be approved by a vote of the House. The committee said it would hold a public vote on whether to recommend the charges on Monday.

The committee’s actions show how increasingly frustrated top investigators have become with some of Mr. Trump’s closest allies, some of whom have refused to sit for interviews or turn over documents even as hundreds of other witnesses — including top officials in the Trump White House — have voluntarily complied.

The committee issued a subpoena in February to Mr. Navarro, who has spoken openly of his involvement in what he calls an “operation” to keep Mr. Trump in office after he lost the 2020 election. He has said he would not comply with the committee’s subpoena, citing Mr. Trump’s invocation of executive privilege over White House materials while he was in office.

On Thursday, he called the committee’s announcement an “unprecedented partisan assault on executive privilege.”

“If President Trump waives the privilege, I would be happy to testify. It is premature for the committee to pursue criminal charges against an individual of the highest rank within the White House for whom executive privilege undeniably applies,” Mr. Navarro said. “Until this matter has been settled at the Supreme Court, where it is inevitably headed, the committee should cease its tactics of harassment and intimidation.”

The committee has sought Mr. Scavino’s testimony since September, when it issued him a subpoena. Mr. Scavino was in contact with Mr. Trump and others who planned the rallies that preceded the violence of Jan. 6, 2021, and he met with Mr. Trump on Jan. 5 to discuss how to persuade members of Congress not to certify the election for President Biden.

He also promoted the Jan. 6 “March for Trump” on Twitter, encouraging people to “be a part of history,” and posted messages to Twitter from the White House that day, according to the panel.

In January this year, Mr. Scavino sued Verizon seeking to stop the company from turning over his phone records to the committee. Stanley Woodward, a lawyer for Mr. Scavino, declined to comment.

A contempt of Congress charge carries a penalty of up to a year in jail. A recommendation from the panel would send the matter to the full House, which would then have to vote to refer the charge to the Justice Department.

The only target of the House investigation to have been criminally charged with contempt of Congress so far is Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s onetime top adviser. That case, which is tentatively set to go to trial in July, has been bogged down recently in arguments over whether Mr. Bannon can defend himself by claiming he was merely following the advice of his lawyers when he declined to respond to the committee’s subpoena.

In December, the House also recommended that Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff, face criminal contempt of Congress charges for his own refusal to cooperate with the committee’s investigation. The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Meadows, who turned over thousands of documents to the committee but ultimately refused to sit for an interview.

The potential contempt charges come as the committee is fending off a litany of lawsuits from witnesses seeking to block its subpoenas. In response to one such suit, the committee on Thursday laid out more of the case it is building, directly linking the storming of the Capitol to the lucrative fund-raising effort by the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign that was built on false claims that Democrats had stolen the election from Mr. Trump.

In a filing in federal court in Washington, the committee gave its most detailed statement yet of why it believes the joint fund-raising effort was not just a plan to dupe donors into sending the Trump campaign and the R.N.C. millions, but also a leading cause of the mob attack on Congress.

In a 57-page document, the committee outlined how, in the weeks after Mr. Trump lost the election, his campaign and the R.N.C. raked in hundreds of millions of dollars sending out fund-raising appeals that called Mr. Biden’s victory “illegitimate” and encouraged supporters to “fight,” including multiple messages sent the same day the Capitol was attacked.

“There is evidence that numerous defendants charged with violations related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and others present on the Capitol grounds that day were motivated by false claims about the election,” Douglas N. Letter, the general counsel of the House, wrote in the filing. “In fact, many defendants in pending criminal cases identified President Trump’s allegation about the ‘stolen election’ as a motivation for their activities at the Capitol.”

For months, the committee’s investigators have examined whether a range of crimes were committed, including two in particular: whether there was wire fraud by Republicans who raised millions of dollars off assertions that the election was stolen, despite knowing the claims were not true, and whether Mr. Trump and his allies obstructed Congress by trying to stop the certification of electoral votes. In recent civil court filings, the committee has begun laying out some of what investigators contend is evidence of criminality.

The committee’s filing came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Republican National Committee that seeks to block Salesforce.com, a vendor that helped the R.N.C. send emails, from complying with a subpoena from the panel seeking information about how the Trump campaign and the R.N.C. may have used emails to spread lies about the election.

The R.N.C. is asking a federal judge to order a preliminary injury to thwart the House committee.

Even after Election Day and Mr. Biden’s victory, the joint fund-raising effort by the Trump campaign and the R.N.C. continued, repeatedly making false claims that the election had been stolen, the committee said. The organizations sent out more than 400 different fund-raising appeals in the first month after the election alone — and hundreds more would follow.

“The select committee is concerned about reports showing that the postelection stolen election claims, and related claims that the election could be reversed, were a significant motivating factor for the donors that contributed to President Trump’s fund-raising efforts,” the House committee wrote in its court filing.

Mr. Trump and the Republican Party raised $255.4 million over about eight weeks after the election as he sought to undermine and overturn the results with unfounded accusations of fraud. When fund-raising began to fall off after the Electoral College certified the election for Mr. Biden on Dec. 14, 2020, the Trump campaign and the R.N.C. doubled down on their false claims of fraud, the committee said.

The organizations later turned to soliciting money through claims that the election could be overturned during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress.

“Every single Patriot from across the Country must step up RIGHT NOW if we’re going to successfully DEFEND the integrity of this Election,” the Trump campaign and the R.N.C. said in one email on Jan. 6, 2021.



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