- Former White House trade advisor Peter Navarro is refusing to comply with a House subpoena.
- The select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis has sought documents pertaining to Navarro’s influence over health policy.
- Rep. Jim Clyburn wrote that Navarro’s noncompliance to the subpoena “in its entirety” is “improper.”
Former White House trade advisor Peter Navarro — who tussled with scientists over the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and retains deep ties to former President Donald Trump — is refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents, according to a letter sent to the investigating House panel.
In the correspondence addressed to Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Navarro stated that he’s adhering to a “direct order” from the former president not to comply with inquiries from the panel regarding the Trump administration’s pandemic response.
“At this time, I am unable to respond to the Subpoena, based on former President Trump’s invocation of executive privilege with respect to the very topic covered by the Subpoena. … Therefore, until such time as the scope of the privilege is negotiated or negotiated, this matter is out of my hands and something that the Sub-Committee should discuss with President Trump’s counsel,” Navarro wrote in his letter to Clyburn.
House Democrats on Saturday disclosed Navarro’s response to their subpoena and made public their letter asking the former advisor to appear for a deposition before the subcommittee on Wednesday.
The subcommittee is investigating whether Trump officials impeded any scientific findings regarding COVID-19.
Clyburn, the House majority whip and chairman of the subcommittee, sent a sharply-worded response to Navarro.
“Your blanket refusal to comply with the subpoena in its entirety is improper,” he wrote. “Courts have clearly held that White House advisers, such as yourself, cannot avoid compelled congressional process. The records and information that you possess are critical to the Select Subcommittee’s investigations.”
He added: “Your refusal to comply is particularly indefensible given that you disclosed many details about your work in the White House, including details of conversations with the former President about the pandemic response, in your recent book and related press tour. The Select Subcommittee therefore expects you to promptly produce all responsive records and information in your possession and appear for a deposition on December 15, as the subpoena requires.”
Choosing to ignore a subpoena can place a potential witness in “contempt of Congress,” which can result in increased financial penalties and possible jail time.
House Democrats could push for a vote to hold Navarro in contempt for declining to appear before the panel.
In November, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was held in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoena issued by the House panel investigating the January 6 riot.
Bannon subsequently turned himself in to law enforcement after he was indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress.
In Navarro’s letter to Clyburn (which he mistakenly writes as “Rayburn,” where the offices for the subcommittee are located), the former advisor claims that he didn’t have access to documents from his government-issued account pertaining to COVID-19 decisions.
During his time in the administration, Navarro advised Trump on a range of economic matters.
Navarro also pushed for individuals who had contracted COVID-19 to take the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, an unproven drug for treating the disease, and sparred with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases.
However, the former advisor also pushed the administration to get ahead of the pandemic early, warning in a January memo that the coronavirus could cause “half a million” deaths domestically.
More than 797,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the US, with nearly 49.9 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.