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Contempt charges sought for Trump aides

Trump aides
Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro, along with Dan Scavino, are in contempt of the US House. Photo: Getty
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The congressional committee probing the deadly January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol has voted unanimously to seek “contempt of Congress” charges against two key aides of Donald Trump.

Peter Navarro, was a trade adviser to the former president, and Daniel Scavino was a Trump deputy chief of staff.

The seven Democratic and two Republican members of the House of Representatives Select Committee approved a report recommending the criminal charge by a 9-0 vote.

There was no immediate word on when the full, Democratic-led House would vote to approve the resolution, which would pave the way for potential criminal charges.

The committee won a victory in federal court on Monday when a judge ruled that Trump “more likely than not” committed a felony by trying to pressure his vice president Mike Pence into obstructing Congress and overturning his election defeat.

Mr Navarro and Mr Scavino have disregarded repeated calls to appear before the committee or provide information to the panel about events surrounding the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of Mr Trump.

“They are obligated to comply with our investigation. They have refused to do so. And that’s a crime,” Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee’s Democratic chair, said.

Four people died on the day of the riot, and one Capitol police officer who fought with rioters died the next day.

Hundreds of police were injured during the onslaught and four officers have since taken their own lives.

Mr Trump has urged associates not to co-operate with the committee, calling the Democratic-led investigation politically motivated and arguing his communications are protected by executive privilege, although many legal experts have said that principle does not apply to former presidents.

Biden’s administration has denied executive privilege to the former Trump aides, saying it was not in the national interest.

Republican Liz Cheney, the Select Committee’s vice chair, noted more than a dozen former Trump White House officials have been among the hundreds of witnesses who have testified to the committee.

The committee said on February 9 it had subpoenaed Mr Navarro, a key player in Trump’s effort to overturn his election defeat.

Mr Navarro has said in media interviews and in his book he helped co-ordinate an effort to halt certification of Mr Biden’s victory and keep Mr Trump in power.

Mr Scavino was subpoenaed in September. The committee said he was a witness to Trump’s activities on the day of the assault.

“These men, Mr Scavino and Mr Navarro, are in contempt of Congress,” Thompson said.

“I’m confident the House will adopt a resolution citing them for this crime. And I hope the Justice Department will move swiftly to hold them accountable.”

The House has already approved criminal referrals for two others who defied the panel’s subpoenas — Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, and Mark Meadows, who was one of Trump’s White House chiefs of staff.

Mr Bannon faces federal charges for refusing to co-operate with the committee and declining to produce documents. He is scheduled for trial in July.

The House voted on Meadows in December, but the Justice Department has not yet said whether it will take action.