U.S. House holds former Trump aides in contempt over Capitol attack probe

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FILE PHOTO: Former White House advisor Peter Navarro leaves the West Wing carrying a poster board displaying claims of voting irregularity at the White House in Washington

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON -The U.S. House of Representatives recommended contempt of Congress charges on Wednesday for Peter Navarro and Daniel Scavino, former aides to Donald Trump, for failing to cooperate with a House probe into the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Navarro, who was a top trade adviser to the Republican former president, and Scavino, who was a deputy chief of staff, did not comply with subpoenas to appear before the House Select Committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

The Democratic-controlled House backed the charges against the two men by a vote of 220-203, which refers the matter to the Department of Justice for a decision on whether to press criminal charges.

Only two Republicans, Jan. 6 Select Committee members Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, joined Democrats in voting in favor.

The nine-member Select Committee had voted unanimously in favor of the contempt charges last week.

Scavino and Navarro have argued that their communications are protected by executive privilege, although many legal experts have said that principle does not apply to former presidents. President Joe Biden’s administration has denied executive privilege to the former Trump aides.

The two men have not responded to requests for comment on the matter.

Contempt of Congress bears a penalty of up to a year’s imprisonment and a fine up to $100,000.

Republicans lined up to object before the vote, accusing Democrats of waging a political war. “Democrats are using the power of the federal government to jail their political opponents,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said.

Supporters of the charge said the two former aides have a legal and moral obligation to comply with subpoenas.

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“In America, no one is above the law. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Scavino nor Mr. Navarro is some form of royalty,” Cheney said before the vote.

TESTIMONY BY TRUMP RELATIVES

Representative Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the Select Committee, questioned the two men’s insistence that their communications with Trump were protected by noting that Trump’s daughter Ivanka had agreed to be interviewed by the committee.

Ivanka Trump, who was a senior adviser to Trump when he was president, along with her husband, Jared Kushner, was interviewed by the panel for about eight hours on Tuesday. Kushner spoke to the panel on March 31.

Navarro and Scavino are the third and fourth associates of the former Republican president to face a House contempt vote.

Some 800 people, including many White House aides, have been interviewed in the committee’s investigation, as the panel prepares for public hearings expected in May.

The House backed contempt of Congress charges last year for Steve Bannon, a Trump adviser. He was charged in a case set to go to trial in July.

The chamber also voted in December in favor of a contempt charge for Mark Meadows, a former House member who became Trump’s chief of staff. There has been no word from the Justice Department on whether charges will be filed.

The Democratic-led Select Committee has been investigating events leading to the assault on the seat of the U.S. government by thousands of Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, when Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers gathered to certify Democrat Biden’s victory in the November 2020 presidential election.

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After Trump repeated his false claims at a raucous rally that his defeat was the result of fraud, mobs rampaged through the Capitol, injuring police officers and sending Pence, lawmakers, staff and journalists fleeing for safety.

Four people died on the day of the attack, and one Capitol Police officer who fought with rioters died the next day. Four officers have since taken their own lives.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Scott Malone, David Gregorio, Jonathan Oatis, Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler)

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