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Judge denies Peter Navarro’s bid to remain out of prison while appealing contempt of Congress case

Peter Navarro, adviser to former U.S. President Donald Trump, faces reporters after he was convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, following his trial at U.S. District Court in Washington, September 7, 2023.

Leah Millis | Reuters

A federal judge on Thursday denied Trump White House official Peter Navarro’s bid to remain out of prison while he appeals his contempt of Congress conviction for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Navarro was sentenced last month to four months behind bars after being found guilty of defying a subpoena for documents and a deposition from the House Jan. 6 Committee. The former White House trade adviser under President Donald Trump had asked to be free while he fights that conviction and sentence in higher courts.

But U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said that Navarro must report to serve his sentence when ordered by the Bureau of Prisons, unless Washington’s federal appeals court steps in to block Mehta’s order. The judge said Navarro hasn’t shown that any of the issues he will raise on appeal are “substantial” questions of law.

Among other things, Navarro has argued that his prosecution was motivated by political bias, but Mehta said Navarro had offered “no actual proof” to support that claim.

“Defendant’s cynical, self-serving claim of political bias poses no question at all, let alone a ‘substantial’ one,” wrote Mehta, who was appointed to the federal court in Washington by President Barack Obama.

An attorney for Navarro didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Navarro has said he couldn’t cooperate with the committee because Trump had invoked executive privilege. The judge barred him from making that argument at trial, however, finding that he didn’t show Trump had actually invoked it.

Navarro told the judge before receiving his punishment in January that the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack had led him to believe that it accepted his invocation of executive privilege.

Navarro was the second Trump aide convicted of contempt of Congress charges. Former White House adviser Steve Bannon previously received a four-month sentence but is free pending appeal.

The House committee spent 18 months investigating the insurrection, interviewing over 1,000 witnesses, holding 10 hearings and obtaining more than 1 million pages of documents. In its final report, the panel ultimately concluded that Trump criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the election results and failed to act to stop his supporters from storming the Capitol.

Trump, the Republican presidential primary front-runner, has been criminally charged by special counsel Jack Smith with conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says the case is politically motivated.

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