During a hearing in the Navarro case on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said he agreed the treatment of the longtime White House trade adviser at the start of the criminal case was unreasonably harsh. .
“It’s curious…at least why the government treated Mr. Navarro’s arrest the way they did,” Mehta said during the session, which Navarro attended with his two defense attorneys. . “It’s a federal crime, but it’s not a violent crime.”
Mehta, a former federal defender, said it was baffling that prosecutors didn’t just tell Navarro he was going to be charged and allow him into an FBI office, like some collared defendants white are allowed to do so.
“It’s a surprise to me that self-surrender wasn’t offered,” Judge said. However, he offered no particular answer and did not seek an explanation from prosecutors.
Prosecutors previously claimed that Navarro made ‘numerous misrepresentations’ about his arrest and that his first request to use the phone that day was not to speak to a lawyer, but to call a producer television about a scheduled interview.
Navarro’s attorney, John Rowley, told the judge on Friday that the FBI’s treatment of Navarro and the government’s decision not to charge two other Trump White House aides who failed to comply with subpoenas. to appear, former chief of staff Mark Meadows and deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, suggested ‘animus’ towards Navarro from the prosecution team. He also said the decisions may have been influenced by the statement. of President Joe Biden that those who challenged the committee should be prosecuted.
Rowley also suggested Navarro was shackled by the FBI when he was arrested, but his client clarified after the hearing that the shackles were used by Deputy U.S. Marshals when he arrived at the courthouse for his initial appearance last month. FBI agents “are responsible for those leg irons,” Navarro told reporters.
It also emerged during Friday’s hearing that Navarro had rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors in the case, offering to drop one of two charges and seek no more than the minimum prison sentence. 30 days.
Rowley told Mehta the case against Navarro was unprecedented. “It’s a case of first impressions,” the defense attorney said.
While most hearings in criminal cases are being held remotely under pandemic-related provisions, Navarro’s lawyers told Mehta on Friday that Navarro wants to have his hearings in person.
Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon faces a jury trial Monday on a similar set of two contempt charges for defying the same committee. However, Bannon was fired from his position in the White House years before the confrontation in the 2020 election and the Capitol riot, while Navarro was still in the White House during this time and prepared a report alleging a widespread electoral fraud.
Navarro’s lawyers said the prosecution contradicts decades of Justice Department legal advice that Congress’s power to compel testimony or records from White House officials is severely limited by concerns of the executive branch.
“This is the first time in our nation’s 250-year history that a senior adviser to a president has been criminally charged for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena,” Rowley said as defense attorneys and Navarro were speaking to reporters outside the courthouse after Friday. audience.
“The Department of Justice…has long been a policy of not prosecuting anyone criminally for this kind of situation, so I wonder what’s changed?…and we intend to find out “said defense attorney John Irving. He declined to discuss what distinctions he sees with Bannon’s case.
Navarro’s trial is scheduled for November 17. He faces a maximum possible sentence of one year in prison on each count if convicted.