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Ex-Trump advisers are defiant ahead of House committee's criminal contempt referrals

Former Trump White House advisers Dan Scavino Jr. (L) and Peter Navarro.

Hours before they were set to face criminal contempt of Congress referrals, former Trump White House advisers Dan Scavino Jr. and Peter Navarro slammed a House select committee leading the charge.

Scavino and Navarro have said executive privilege prevents their cooperation with subpoenas from the Democratic-led committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The subpoenas compel them to produce documents and testify.

Navarro, the former White House trade adviser, was subpoenaed in February, while ex-Deputy Chief of Staff Scavino was among the first wave of ex-Trump officials subpoenaed last September.

For Scavino's part, his attorneys have released a letter sent Friday to White House Deputy Counsel Jonathan Su raising alarms about the plan.

"The Select Committee's approach calls into question whether it seriously considered the concerns articulated by Mr. Scavino at all," reads the March 25 letter from Scavino's lawyers Stan Brand and Stanley Woodward shared with NPR.

Navarro, on the other hand, issued a statement once again attacking the panel as conducting a "witch hunt" and accusing the panel of spreading lies.

"My position remains this is not my Executive Privilege to waive and the Committee should negotiate this matter with President Trump," Navarro said in a statement to NPR.

Panel to recommend inviting Ginni Thomas to appear

In other business Monday, Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., will recommend that it invites Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to appear after reports last week that she had exchanged text messages with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows attempting to overturn the election in the days before the attack.

And as the panel investigates people closer and closer to Trump, his son-in-law and trusted adviser Jared Kushner is expected to appear on Thursday, according to two sources familiar with the committee's discussions.

Ahead of the committee's 7:30 p.m. ET public business meeting on Monday, the panel issued a 34-page report and two dozen exhibits documenting exchanges with Navarro and Scavino.

It showed multiple failed attempts to draw their cooperation, and argued that executive privilege claims were waived in their cases by President Biden.

In Scavino's case, the panel said he was part of several meetings involving Trump focused on efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election.

The committee said Scavino also helped manage social media accounts for Trump and tracked a defunct website, TheDonald.win, where users discussed Jan. 6 violence.

"Mr. Scavino may have had advance warning about the potential for violence on January 6th," the panel said.

The report also documents Navarro's ties to ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon and others as part of efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, as well as details he shared in his book In Trump Time: My Journal of America's Plague Year released last year. In the book, Navarro describes a procedural strategy to overturn the 2020 election based on false claims. Navarro calls it the "Green Bay Sweep," and, he writes, it is the "last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats' jaws of deceit." The committee said Navarro released a three-part report called the "Navarro Report" on his website that shared misinformation and ties to false claims of election fraud.

The panel said in its report it has also obtained additional information regarding Navarro's role.

"In the days leading up to January 6, 2021, according to evidence obtained by the Select Committee, Mr. Navarro also encouraged Mark Meadows (and possibly others) to call Roger Stone to discuss January 6th," the report said.

Monday's meeting marks the fourth such gathering for the committee

If the committee approves the criminal contempt referrals against Scavino and Navarro, it would send the matter to the full House to take up a vote. If the House also approves the referrals, it would then move onto the Justice Department for potential prosecution.

A conviction could result in up to one year in jail, and up to a $1,000 fine.

The panel has previously approved criminal contempt referrals for Bannon, ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and Meadows.

Both referrals for Bannon and Meadows were approved by the full House, with the final referral before the House in December for Meadows. But so far, the Justice Department has only pursued prosecution for one of those cases, Bannon, who is now battling related criminal charges.

Already, the committee has issued more than 90 publicly announced subpoenas. In all, the panel has interviewed more than 750 witnesses, the vast majority voluntarily, and received about 87,000 records.

NPR's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.