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A grand jury has indicted former Trump adviser Peter Navarro for contempt of Congress

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A grand jury has indicted former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro for contempt of Congress. Prosecutors say Navarro refused to provide documents or testimony to the congressional panel investigating the January six attack on the U.S. Capitol. Navarro blasted the Justice Department for what he calls hardball tactics. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been following the case, and she's here with us now to break it down for us. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so what do congressional investigators want to hear about from Peter Navarro?

JOHNSON: Well, they say Navarro and others close to former President Trump tried to delay the certification of the 2020 presidential election and actually change the outcome of the election. Navarro called this plan the Green Bay sweep. And in his book, he wrote it was, quote, "a last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats' jaws of deceit." Now, Ailsa, let's be clear. This election was not stolen. It was free and fair, as President Trump's own attorney general said. Navarro also took part in a call just a few days before January 6 last year where he and Trump allegedly leaned on state lawmakers to get on board with this plan, though.

CHANG: OK. So all of this sounds like it's right at the center of what lawmakers are investigating. So what reasons did Peter Navarro give for refusing to participate?

JOHNSON: Peter Navarro is a pretty idiosyncratic guy. He's been talking a lot in public even after a judge advised him this afternoon anything he says can be used against him. Here's part of what he had to say to reporters outside the courthouse.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETER NAVARRO: What that kangaroo committee is doing right now is investigating for punitive purposes - they're essentially acting as judge, jury and executioner. Their clear mission is to prevent Donald John Trump from running for president in 2024 and being elected for president. And people like me are in their way.

JOHNSON: Peter Navarro wants Congress to negotiate with Trump's lawyers and leave him out of it. The problem is that the current president, Joe Biden, has said that executive privilege should not apply to what happened on January 6, which he says was the worst attack on the government since the war of 1812. So even if Donald Trump wanted to assert executive privilege, the sitting president says not so fast.

CHANG: Right. OK. Well, the House committee is getting ready to hold its first public hearings next week. Carrie, so what do you think? How likely is it that they're going to get information from Navarro in time for those hearings?

JOHNSON: I don't see any way, Ailsa. You know this case is now in the courts, which moves so slowly.

CHANG: Yes.

JOHNSON: And both Congress and the Justice Department say there's a broader principle at stake anyway. You can't flout oversight - if you do, there will be consequences. And Peter Navarro faces as many as two years in jail if he's convicted of contempt of Congress.

CHANG: OK. So what comes next here?

JOHNSON: He's due back in court June 17, a couple of weeks from now. He aired a lot of grievances today. He complained he lives only a hundred yards from the FBI, but they waited till he was at the airport, headed to Nashville to go on a TV show to arrest him. And the judge gently advised Navarro to get a lawyer, not to represent himself anymore. But Navarro says he's probably going to represent himself because he doesn't want to spend all his retirement savings on legal fees. Remember also, another thing coming up, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been fighting his own contempt of Congress charges. He's scheduled to face trial in D.C. in July. So it could be a very busy summer on this front.

CHANG: Indeed. That is NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thank you, Carrie.

JOHNSON: Happy to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.