January 6 Committee Recommends Contempt Charges for Two Trump Aides

Good morning. Haley is out sick with a cold, but Ryan and Harvest kindly stepped in to put together today’s newsletter.

January 6 Committee

The phrase of the evening at Monday night’s January 6 committee meeting was “no one is above the law.” 

Members of the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol gathered in the ornate Cannon caucus room on Capitol Hill to refer former Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress. The motion sailed through the committee on a unanimous vote. 

A vote on the full House floor could come soon: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Monday night that he will bring a resolution forward “as soon as the schedule permits.” 

The House has voted in recent months to hold Steve Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas to appear before the panel. The Justice Department has not yet taken action against Meadows, but Bannon has been indicted and is facing a trial this summer.

In their remarks Monday night, members of the committee appealed directly to the Justice Department to act on the contempt referrals.

“Without enforcement of congressional subpoenas, there is no oversight, and without oversight, no accountability—for the former president, or any other president, past, present, or future,” Rep. Adam Schiff said. “Without enforcement of its lawful process, Congress ceases to be a co-equal branch of government.”

Scavino acted as deputy chief of staff and social media manager during his time in the Trump administration. Navarro served as a senior trade adviser. The contempt vote comes after both rebuffed requests for testimony and documents from the committee. The panel has sought to get Scavino’s documents since October, and Navarro’s since February. The move to recommend contempt charges essentially signals that congressional investigators do not believe they can obtain the necessary information without compulsion.

Scavino asked the Biden administration to assert executive privilege to keep his records confidential, a request President Joe Biden declined to grant. Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers have argued that executive privilege shields his former aides.

According to the committee’s contempt report released Sunday, the White House counsel’s office told Scavino earlier this month that Biden “determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the national interest, and therefore is not justified.”

The committee wants to talk to Scavino because he oversaw tweets on Trump’s former social media accounts. These included posts that spread misinformation about the 2020 presidential elections for weeks after Biden’s win and promoted the January 6 rally, urging people to attend and “be a part of history.” The committee’s report also notes that Scavino spoke with Trump on the phone the day of the attack on the Capitol.

“His two distinct roles — as White House official in the days leading up to and during the attack, and as a campaign social media promoter of the Trump ‘stolen election’ narrative — provide independent reasons to seek his testimony and documents,” the committee wrote in the report.

Navarro, meanwhile, worked with Bannon and others to “develop and implement a plan to delay Congress’s certification, and ultimately change the outcome,” according to the report. He has talked rather openly about his involvement in these efforts: He detailed in his November 2021 book In Trump Time that the plan was called the “Green Bay Sweep” and that it sought to “snatch a stolen election” from Democrats. Navarro had also crafted and published a report that included claims of supposed election fraud on his website.

“There’s no executive privilege here for presidents, much less trade advisors, to plot coups and organized insurrections against the people’s government and the people’s Constitution,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, said of Navarro during the meeting. 

Besides Bannon and Meadows, the January 6 committee also recommended a criminal contempt referral against former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark in December, but Democratic leadership chose not to take it up on the House floor because Clark agreed to appear for a deposition before the committee. During that February deposition, Clark pleaded the Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate more than 100 times in the course of almost two hours, CNN reported. Other Trump allies, including legal scholar John Eastman and political adviser Roger Stone, have also sat for depositions but reportedly refused to answer most questions.

Meadows initially cooperated and provided emails and texts. But then he refused to sit before the panel for a deposition.

Congress’ role ends once the referrals clear the House floor: The Justice Department decides whether to proceed with charges, which can result in jail time of up to a year and financial penalties. 

Virginia Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who was last to speak at Monday’s meeting, took her call for executive branch action directly to the nation’s top cop: “Attorney General Garland, do your job so that we can do ours.”

On the Floor

The House is expected to vote this week on legislation that would decriminalize marijuana on the federal level. Lawmakers are also set to consider a bill that would require Medicare and private insurers to cap insulin prices at $35 per month. A full list of the bills that will come to the House floor this week is available here.

Senators voted Monday night 68-28 to advance a sprawling China competition and innovation package to a conference committee with the House, where members from both chambers will attempt to forge a compromise version. The Senate is also expected to continue consideration of the bill to strip Russia of its permanent normal trade status this week. (We wrote about last week’s delay on that bill in Friday’s Uphill—read up on it here.)

Key Hearings

  • Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young is testifying on the House side this morning about President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget request. Information and livestream here. She will appear on the Senate side for another hearing examining the president’s budget on Wednesday. Information and livestream here.

  • The House Judiciary Committee is meeting this morning for an oversight hearing on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s cyber division. Information and livestream here.

  • The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the growing burden of medical debt this morning. Information and livestream here

  • U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger will appear before members of the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday morning for a hearing on the Capitol Police force’s fiscal year 2023 budget request. Information and livestream here.

  • The House Homeland Security Committee will meet Wednesday afternoon for a hearing on defending critical infrastructure from Russian cyberattacks. Information and livestream here

  • Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing Thursday morning on China’s influence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Information and livestream here.

Of Note

Judge says Trump, adviser ‘more likely than not’ committed crime in Jan. 6 efforts

House Republicans look back to 1994

Inside Ted Cruz’s last-ditch battle to keep Trump in power

Top takeaways from Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget request

Fortenberry resigns from Congress after felony convictions

Marco Rubio leads G.O.P. push for a more combative stance on China

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