Trump White House official Peter Navarro, who was convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, was sentenced on Thursday to four months behind bars.
Navarro has vowed to appeal the verdict, saying he could not cooperate with the committee because Trump had invoked executive privilege. A judge barred him from making that argument at trial, however, finding that he did not show Trump had actually invoked it.
Navarro said in court before his sentencing on Thursday that the House committee investigating the January 6 attack had led him to believe that it accepted his invocation of executive privilege. “Nobody in my position should be put in conflict between the legislative branch and the executive branch,” he told the judge.
The judge told Navarro that it took “chutzpah” for him to assert that he accepted responsibility for his actions while also suggesting that his prosecution was politically motivated. “You are not a victim. You are not the object of a political prosecution,” the judge said. “These are circumstances of your own making.
Navarro’s lawyers had advised him not to address the judge, but he said he wanted to speak after hearing the judge express disappointment in him. Responding to a question about why he didn’t initially seek a lawyer’s counsel, he told the judge, “I didn’t know what to do, sir.”
The judge is allowing Navarro’s defence to submit a written brief on the question of allowing him to remain free pending appeal.
Justice Department prosecutors said Navarro tried to “hide behind claims of privilege” even before he knew what the committee wanted, showing a “disdain” for the committee that should warrant a longer sentence. Prosecutors had asked a judge to sentence him to six months behind bars and impose a US$200,000 fine.
Defence lawyers said Trump did claim executive privilege, putting Navarro in an “untenable position”, and they asked for a sentence of probation and a US$100 fine.
Bannon, who also made executive-privilege arguments, was convicted of two counts.
Navarro’s sentencing comes after a judge rejected his bid for a new trial. His lawyers had argued that jurors may have been improperly influenced by political protesters outside the courthouse when they took a break from deliberations. Shortly after their break, the jurors found Navarro guilty of two misdemeanour counts of contempt of Congress.
But US District Judge Amit Mehta found that Navarro did not show that the eight-minute break had any effect on the September verdict. He found no protest was under way and no one approached the jurors – they interacted only with each other and the court officer assigned to accompany them.
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