Peter Navarro, a former senior White House adviser to former President Donald Trump, failed to prove that Trump asserted executive privilege to block him from testifying to the House Jan. 6 select committee, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta keeps on track Navarro’s Sept. 5 contempt-of-Congress trial, where he will face jurors on two charges that he defied the committee’s subpoena for testimony and documents related to Navarro’s role in Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.
Navarro has long claimed that Trump asserted privilege to block him from appearing before the Jan. 6 select committee in early 2022 when the panel subpoenaed him. But Navarro has never produced direct evidence to back that claim and, more importantly, Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly declined to say whether Navarro was accurately reflecting their conversations.
Mehta cited Trump’s refusal to corroborate Navarro’s claims as the most compelling reason that he found Trump did not, in fact, seek to block Navarro’s testimony to the select committee.
“There was no formal invocation of executive privilege by [Trump] after personal consideration nor authorization to Mr. Navarro to invoke privilege on his behalf,” Mehta said.
Navarro’s trial, which is likely to be brief, will head to jury selection on Tuesday. Mehta’s ruling means the former Trump trade adviser will not be able to argue to the jury that he believed Trump asserted privilege and effectively blocked him from complying with aspects of the select committee’s subpoena.
In addition, Mehta noted that even if he had shown Trump asserted privilege, the select committee had indicated it planned to ask him questions about topics that did not touch on his communications with Trump and therefore wouldn’t be covered by any privilege assertion.
Mehta, who has spent months wrestling with the complicated and largely unsettled law surrounding executive privilege, granted Navarro a final opportunity on Monday to prove that Trump explicitly told him not to comply with the select committee’s subpoena. But Mehta ruled Wednesday that Navarro had “not met his burden” to convince him that Trump had ever explicitly done so.