Former Trump aide Peter Navarro defies House subpoena in Covid-19 probe

WASHINGTON — Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has refused to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents issued by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, according to a letter from Navarro released by the panel.

In his refusal, Navarro cited a “direct order” from former President Donald Trump to claim executive privilege. The panel, which is investigating the Trump administration’s pandemic response, made the letter from Navarro public on Saturday when committee chairman Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., sent a letter in response to Navarro’s refusal.

“Your blanket refusal to comply with the subpoena in its entirety is improper,” Clyburn said in the letter to Navarro. “Courts have clearly held that White House advisers, such as yourself, cannot avoid compelled congressional process.”

Navarro’s letter said Trump told him to “protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments.”

“At this time, I am unable to respond to the Subpoena, based on former President Trump’s invocation of executive privilege,” Navarro wrote to the House panel on Dec. 7.

This “matter is out of my hands and something that the Sub-Committee should discuss with President Trump’s counsel,” he said.

The House panel’s investigation into the handling of the pandemic has come under fire from Trump allies who have called the probe politically motivated. Some Republican lawmakers have also repeatedly demanded that Democratic leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conduct hearings to hold the “Chinese Communist Party accountable” for the pandemic.

Several Trump allies are also defying subpoenas in a separate House investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The panel said last week that it plans to move forward with contempt proceedings against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who responded by suing the committee.

Clyburn closes his letter to Navarro with a warning that if he doesn’t appear for deposition, scheduled for Dec. 15, and produce the documents requested, the committee “will interpret your actions as willful noncompliance with the subpoena.”