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Navarro’s bid to stave off jail sentence denied at Supreme Court

Peter Navarro, a former trade adviser in Donald Trump’s White House, appears to be heading to jail.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday turned down Navarro’s emergency motion to stave off his imminent jail sentence — set to begin Tuesday at 2 p.m. in a Miami federal prison — for his defiance of a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee two years ago.

Navarro, 74, was convicted of two counts of contempt of Congress last fall for refusing to provide testimony or documents to the congressional investigators probing Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election. He’s the first member of Trump’s White House to face imminent jail time over events stemming from the 2020 vote.

Navarro’s emergency application to head off his four-month jail term was directed to Chief Justice John Roberts, who serves as circuit justice for the D.C. Circuit and oversees the Washington, D.C. court where the former Trump trade adviser was charged and tried.

Departing from the practice in most serious or high-profile legal fights, Roberts ruled on Navarro’s request himself, without referring it to the full court. The chief justice noted that a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that Navarro failed to raise several challenges to the fairness of his conviction when he first sought to remain free pending appeal.

“I see no basis to disagree with the determination that Navarro forfeited those arguments in the release proceeding, which is distinct from his pending appeal on the merits,” Roberts wrote in his one-page order, emphasizing that the door remains open to the ex-Trump aide to challenge his convictions themselves.

An attorney for Navarro declined to comment on the chief justice’s ruling.

The House select committee subpoenaed Navarro in early 2022, and he quickly turned down its demand, claiming that Trump’s “executive privilege” barred him from cooperating. The committee emphasized that it had asked him about many subjects not related directly to his conversations with Trump and that could not conceivably be subject to executive privilege. But Navarro still refused to appear or turn over records.

The House held Navarro in contempt in April 2022 and the Justice Department followed suit with a two-count, misdemeanor indictment weeks later.

Though he’s still set to be the first to go to prison, Navarro is actually the second Trump adviser convicted of contempt of Congress for defying the Jan. 6 committee. Steve Bannon was convicted of two contempt charges in July 2022, but the judge in his case, Carl Nichols, agreed to let him remain free while he appeals his convictions.

But Navarro’s judge, Amit Mehta, rejected Navarro’s effort to remain out of prison, noting that Navarro had presented no evidence that Trump actually invoked executive privilege — and that even if Trump had, it wouldn’t have overcome Congress’ need for Navarro’s information. As Roberts pointed out, last week, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Mehta’s decision and offered a long list of its own reasons.

Navarro and Bannon worked on a 2020 strategy they dubbed the “Green Bay sweep,” a plan to orchestrate congressional challenges to Joe Biden’s presidential electors on Jan. 6, 2021, the day the House and Senate met to certify the 2020 election results.

Navarro also authored a three-part report making largely discredited claims of election fraud, one installment of which Trump cited in a now-infamous tweet urging supporters to descend on Washington for a “wild” protest on Jan. 6.

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