Trump says former trade aide Peter Navarro must defy House Covid-19 probe

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – Former US President Donald Trump told his former White House trade adviser to defy a House committee that subpoenaed him in a probe into the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m telling Peter Navarro to protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments,” Mr Trump said in a statement on Saturday (Nov 20).

Mr Peter Navarro, who was director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and assistant to the president, was subpoenaed Thursday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus.

Mr Trump’s directive opens up another front in his effort to keep former aides and allies from cooperating with congressional inquiries and demands.

Mr Trump lawyers have already instructed several others, including Steve Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to defy subpoenas to testify and turn over documents to a House select committee investigating the Jan 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.

Whether executive privilege grants them immunity is a question that’s likely to take some time to wind through the courts.

Democrats who control the House voted in October to hold Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for his defiance and referred the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution.

A federal grand jury indicted him on two counts of contempt of Congress this month.

Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democrat who chairs the coronavirus panel, has said Mr Navarro was subpoenaed after refusing to cooperate with requests from the committee.

The subpoena demands that Mr Navarro produce documents by Dec 8 related to his work on the administration’s pandemic response and to appear for a deposition on Dec 1.

That includes evidence that he complied with federal laws on the preservation of presidential records.

Mr Clyburn says Mr Navarro and other Trump administration officials “appear to have prioritised politics over the pandemic response” when cases surged in fall 2020, including by focusing on promoting “Trump’s Big Lie that the election results were fraudulent,” Mr Clyburn said.

Mr Navarro appeared to dismiss the committee’s request on Friday in a Twitter post that sought to implicate Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, in the pandemic.

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