Legal Law

Peter Navarro Wises Up, Legal professionals Up, Shuts Up – Above the Regulation

Former Trump Advisor Peter Navarro Indicted For Contempt Of Congress

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Peter Navarro had a normal morning in court.

In any other context, this would be a “man bites dog” story. But Navarro’s recent judicial track record is so hilariously batshit that it bears mentioning when he manages to show up before a tribunal and not chew the furniture.

After defying subpoenas from both Congress and a federal grand jury, Trump’s anti-China econ loon filed a pro se civil suit against Nancy Pelosi and the US Attorney in DC. It’s not clear what he thought would happen next, but shortly thereafter he got picked up by the FBI and found himself on the pointy end of a criminal contempt indictment.

Navarro proceeded to accuse the FBI of treating him “worse than al Qaeda”; demanded extensive discovery after accusing the FBI of illegally reciting his Miranda warning from memory rather than reading it off a card; claimed to have a lawyer known to the government while simultaneously accusing the government of taking advantage of his pro se status; and requested that his criminal trial be postponed until the conclusion of his civil case.

All of which was accomplished by increasingly peevish emails to US District Judge Amit Mehta’s courtroom deputy, on which he only bothered to CC prosecutors after a stern warning from the court about ex parte communications.

Sadly, we are unlikely to see any more messages like this one, though, since “Peter Navarro, Pro se actively seeking counsel” is no more.

As of last night, Navarro finally retained counsel and will be represented by white collar defense lawyer John Rowley and environmental lawyer John Irving, both of whom are former federal prosecutors.

Their first action was to dismiss the civil case against Pelosi without prejudice. So far, so normal! And indeed the arraignment was devoid of the antics that Navarro has engaged thus far, with the derp-endant pleading “not guilty” to both charges without extended fanfare.

Rowley mildly stated that they’d withdrawn the civil suit because of a deadline issue (not because it was grade-A wackassery), and Judge Mehta responded that they could probably hash out most of the issues regarding the legitimacy of the January 6 Select Committee in his own courtroom.

Navarro’s counsel did mention Steve Bannon’s case, though he failed to note that Judge Carl J. Nichols already ruled against Bannon, refusing to entertain the argument that the committee is illegally constituted, that its subpoenas are invalid, and that it has no legitimate legislative purpose. And Judge Timothy Kelly found no different when the RNC tried to evade the committee’s subpoena, although disclosure is blocked pending appeal. But if Kelly and Nichols, both of whom were appointed by Trump, weren’t receptive to this argument, it seems unlikely that Navarro’s going to get a different result from Judge Mehta, an Obama appointee.

The hearing was not without hilarity, however, with Navarro’s lawyers arguing that their client can’t possibly be tried during 2022 since he’ll be out on book tour promoting his newest quantum opus. Which is … a new one. This book, like his prior one, covers his time in the Trump administration, a topic he insists he cannot testify on because of executive privilege.

Judge Mehta chuckled slightly at the request to postpone the prosecution so Navarro can flog his book, noting that “the fact pattern isn’t that difficult here,” and insisting that they need to go to trial during this calendar year. Although his docket is groaning under the weight of January 6 defendants, particularly the Oath Keeper militiamen charged with sedition, he set the case for trial in November.

Navarro was notably more restrained in the media scrum outside the White House.

Which is probably good for the administration of justice, even if it’s way less fun for legal bloggers to cover.

US v. Navarro [Docket via Court Listener]


Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.

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