Former White House economic adviser Peter Navarro is refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by a House select subcommittee investigating the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing former President Donald Trump’s claim of executive privilege.
In a Saturday letter released by the panel, Chairman James Clyburn (D-SC) called Navarro’s refusal “indefensible” given the recent publication of the former aide’s book “In Trump Time: A Journal of America’s Plague Year,” which details conversations between Navarro and the 45th president about the outbreak.
“Your blanket refusal to comply with the subpoena in its entirety is improper. Courts have clearly held that White House advisers, such as yourself, cannot avoid compelled congressional process,” said Clyburn, who called the records and information Navarro has “critical” to the House investigation.
Navarro informed the subcommittee on Dec. 7 that he would not comply with the subpoena “based on former President Trump’s invocation of executive privilege with respect to the very topic covered by the Subpoena.”
Navarro cited a “direct order” from Trump on Nov. 20, in which he urged Navarro to “protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments.”
He called the matter “out of my hands and something that the Sub-Committee should discuss with President Trump’s counsel.”
Clyburn urged Navarro to still comply with the subcommittee’s requests to produce the requested documents and appear for a deposition by Dec. 15 — saying it is “abundantly clear” that Navarro possess “information responsive to the subpoena that is not covered by any colorable claims of executive privilege.”
If he does not, the House will see Navarro’s actions as “willful noncompliance with the subpoena.”
Navarro was first asked to voluntarily cooperate with the investigation on Sept. 14 and was subpoenaed on Nov. 18.
Navarro did not immediately respond to the subcommittee’s Saturday letter.
The subcomittee’s investigation into the handling of the pandemic continues almost two years after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the US.
In June, ranking member Steve Scalise (R-La.) called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to schedule hearings on the origin of the virus — something many Republicans have called for in order to hold China responsible for the virus allegedly leaking from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“We have asked that question for more than a year and requested that the House majority hold hearings to investigate the origins of COVID. Perplexingly, Speaker Pelosi has refused to allow a single hearing — calling it a ‘diversion,’” Scalise said at the time. “As the American people will hear today from our expert witnesses, this is far from a diversion.”
“The very name of our committee is the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, yet Speaker Pelosi refuses to have a hearing on the origin of, you guessed it, the coronavirus,” he added, asking, “What are they trying to hide?”
Navarro is also among many Trump allies subpoenaed by a second House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Many, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, Trump attorney John Eastman and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, have refused to comply with their subpoenas or cited their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in declining to testify.
Bannon is the only one to have been indicted on contempt of Congress charges so far.