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Trump allies held in contempt over silence in Capitol riot probe

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Former US Director of Trade Peter Navarro boasted of his role in the plot to overturn the election./AFP
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Apr 07, 2022 - 09:36 AM

WASHINGTON — US lawmakers voted Wednesday to recommend criminal contempt charges against two allies of former president Donald Trump, tightening the net on key figures from the previous administration accused of involvement in last year’s deadly Capitol assault.

Former White House trade director Peter Navarro and deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino were subpoenaed to answer questions before the congressional committee probing the riot, but did not show up.

“They have been given every opportunity to come forward, yet have attempted to obstruct the pursuit of justice and to stonewall the committee’s work and conceal the truth,” said Democratic panel member Elaine Luria.

Addressing the pair directly, she added: “My question remains: What are you covering up and who are you covering for?”

The nine-member select committee, headed by a Democratic lawmaker with a Republican deputy, is investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat in the November 2020 election in the run-up to the Capitol riot — as well as the help he got from Navarro, Scavino and others.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted roughly along party lines to refer the pair to the Justice Department to consider charges.

If successfully prosecuted, they would be facing several weeks of jail time and possible fines of up to $100,000.

Thousands of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol last year in an effort to stop President Joe Biden’s election victory from being certified. At least five deaths have been linked to the violence.

The mob had been whipped up by Trump, whose fiery calls to march on Congress and “fight like hell” was the culmination of months of baseless fraud claims about a contest he lost fairly to Biden.

Scavino was the ex-president’s social media manager and they were together at the White House as the mob began its attack, according to investigators.

Navarro has bragged about his role in organizing the Trump campaign’s effort to overturn the election result, telling cable channel MSNBC in January that the plot required more than 100 lawmakers voting to send the results back to be decertified in six battleground states.

“Navarro has significant relevant knowledge. He’s happy to share it on television and in podcasts, but he won’t provide this information in response to a lawful subpoena,” Democratic lawmaker Stephanie Murphy of Florida said on the floor of the House.

Indiana Republican Jim Banks argued however that the pair did not deserve jail and Scavino in particular should keep his liberty as he is a good father to his two sons.

Prosecutors in the US Attorney’s Office in Washington will decide whether or not to file charges.

The House has already voted to make formal referrals for prosecution against senior Trump aides Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon, as well as ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.

Only Bannon is being prosecuted so far, however, and the Clark citation didn’t even make it to the floor of the House.

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