Former Trump advisor Peter Navarro is set to stand trial in November on contempt of Congress charges
- A federal prosecutor said the
Justice Departmentwants a trial "as early as possible."
- Navarro accused prosecutors of pushing for a speedy trial to "exploit" his lack of legal counsel.
A federal judge on Friday set a November trial date for the
Judge Amit Mehta scheduled the trial to start November 17, rejecting a suggestion from Navarro's defense team that the court proceeding begin in early 2023. In pushing for that later trial date, Navarro's defense team noted that the former Trump advisor will be promoting a book later this year that is important to his livelihood.
But a federal prosecutor, Amanda Vaughn, said that provided "absolutely no basis" for delaying the trial and argued the criminal proceedings against Navarro should move as "expeditiously as possible."
Calling his schedule a "mess," Mehta said that — after November — he would not be available for a trial until April 2023.
"I think we ought to get this done a little sooner than that," Mehta said.
He added: "I don't think it's in the public interest to wait until April."
A grand jury indicted Navarro months after the House referred the former Trump advisor to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution over his refusal to sit for a deposition or turn over records to the
Vaughn, who is also involved in the Bannon prosecution, described that in December case as "very straightforward." On Friday, she expressed similar expectations for Navarro's case.
When Mehta said he anticipated the trial lasting "no longer than a week," Vaughn responded, "If that, your honor."
The House had also voted to recommend that the Justice Department bring contempt of Congress charges against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino, a onetime deputy chief of staff for communications. But federal prosecutors in Washington, DC, declined to bring similar contempt charges against those two former Trump advisors, according to a copy of a letter US attorney Matt Graves sent to House counsel Doug Letter.
In the initial weeks after his indictment, Navarro represented himself and said he was running up against "a number of hurdles" in hiring defense lawyers. But on the eve of his arraignment, a pair of defense lawyers — John Irving and John Rowley — entered appearances to represent Navarro.
Navarro accused the Justice Department and FBI of misconduct, claiming the law enforcement agencies were rushing his case and "pushing very hard for a 'speedy trial' as part of its strategy to exploit the unrepresented."
"Clearly, the prosecution's strategy is to take advantage of an individual without adequate representation," Navarro wrote in a letter to Mehta. "At this point, I am very actively seeking a legal team but am facing a number of hurdles."
Navarro, an economist who encouraged Trump's imposition of harsh trade tariffs, spread unverified claims of widespread election fraud as lawyers for Trump pressed dozens of cases claiming fraud that they would lose.
Outside court on Friday, Navarro said his book — "on Amazon, by the way" — is "about how we lost the White House in 2020 and how we're going to win it back in 2024." Navarro did not address a reporter's question about whether the book would address a key focus of the House January 6 committee: the period after the 2020 election in which then-President Donald Trump and his political allies pushed to overturn Joe Biden's victory.
"It really is a blueprint and battle cry for taking back the House of Representatives from the Pelosi-ites who, really, are the fruit of this poison tree," he added.
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