The House Rules Committee voted along party lines Monday afternoon in recommending that a pair of former White House aides to former President Donald Trump face criminal charges for refusing to testify in the House’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The Rules Committee vote sets up a vote by the full House on whether to pursue contempt charges against former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro and longtime Trump social media guru Dan Scavino for stonewalling lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee.
If a majority in the House votes to seek criminal charges against Navarro and Scavino, it would make them the third and fourth Trump former advisers recommended for charges in connection with the investigation into the attack on the Capitol.
Navarro and Scavino did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday evening on the Rules Committee vote.
The Rules Committee’s chairman, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., lamented the fact that the resolution to hold Navarro and Scavino in contempt of Congress would inevitably face opposition from some Republican members of the House.
“I’m puzzled by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be universal outrage over not only what happened but what we continue to learn, in large part thanks to the efforts of your committee,” McGovern told members of the select committee, which voted unanimously last week to hold Scavino and Navarro in contempt. “This lack of curiosity about the truth is stunning to me.”
McGovern said the fact that more than 750 witnesses have voluntarily cooperated with the select committee’s probe means “we will get to the truth,” but he cautioned that turning “a blind eye” to those who refuse to comply with subpoenas could set a dangerous precedent.
“I just want to remind everybody: I think history is watching us right now,” he said. “And we better get this right for the sake of our country.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who serves as vice chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, similarly expressed frustrations with the lack of support the investigation has received from members of her own party.
«One of the most disappointing things about this period of the last 14 months has been the extent to which when the chips were down, my colleagues did not heed the test.… When you were called to do what you know is right, instead, you played politics, and you continue to do it in here today,” said Cheney, who appeared as a witness on behalf of the Jan. 6 committee. “Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro are obviously and clearly in contempt. There shouldn’t be anything political about the fact that they’re in contempt.»
The select committee has argued that Scavino and Navarro have information that is relevant to their investigation of the events that led up to the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which resulted in five deaths and left more than 140 police officers injured. The panel is working rapidly to complete its work, racing against an informal deadline of the expected takeover of the House by Republicans this November.
Lawmakers on the select committee have expressed frustration with Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department in recent days over worries that the key figures involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol may escape justice.
“Attorney General Garland, do your job so we can do ours,” Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. and a member of the select committee, said last week.
Last week, the committee released a 34-page report outlining its case against Scavino and Navarro for failing to comply with subpoenas compelling them to provide testimony and documents detailing their roles in Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Both men have attempted to argue that, because they were working in the White House at the time of the riot, the information sought by the committee is shielded by executive privilege.
Scavino, a loyal Trump ally who served as one of the former president’s first campaign staffers before going on to become White House deputy chief of staff, also managed the former president’s social media accounts. According to the committee, Scavino “was responsible for social media and communications strategy for the former president, including with respect to the Trump Campaign’s post-election efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.”
“Mr. Scavino reportedly attended several meetings with the President in which challenges to the election were discussed,” reads the committee’s report. “Mr. Scavino also tracked social media on behalf of President Trump, and he did so at a time when sites reportedly frequented by Mr. Scavino suggested the possibility of violence on January 6th.”
The report cites news articles about Scavino monitoring sites such as “TheDonald.win,” which it describes as “an online forum frequented by individuals who openly advocated and planned violence in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6.” The report states that “Mr. Scavino may have had advance warning about the potential for violence on January 6th.”
The committee has also stated that Navarro has refused to provide information relevant to its investigation despite having been outspoken in media interviews about his role in planning to help subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The former White House trade adviser has said that he worked with Steve Bannon and other allies of Trump to develop a plan they dubbed the “Green Bay Sweep” to delay the formal count of the Electoral College results by Congress to buy time to change the outcome. Navarro even detailed the so-called operation in his book “In Trump Time,” which was published in November.
The committee says it informed Navarro that many of the topics it wanted to discuss with him were not protected by executive privilege, such as notes that Navarro already wrote about in detail in his book.
At Monday’s Rules Committee meeting, Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., a longtime Trump ally, spoke out against the contempt referral, repeating arguments made by Scavino’s lawyer that accused the House of acting improperly to force testimony.
“The Select Committee’s inappropriate methods undermine the legal principle that every single person anywhere in the country has a legal right to object to a subpoena,” Armstrong said. “The Select Committee has publicly denied that the recipient of a subpoena has any option but to submit fully to their demands. Anything less will be met by criminal referral.»
Of the criminal referrals issued by the Jan. 6 select committee, only the one issued to former Trump aide Steve Bannon, has resulted in a federal indictment for criminal contempt of Congress.
The Justice Department is still considering whether to prosecute former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. The full House voted to refer him for contempt charges in December. The committee also voted to advance another contempt referral for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in November, but that referral never made it to the full House after Clark agreed to sit for an interview with the committee, during which he invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times.