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Trial of former Trump aide Peter Navarro set to end for contempt of Congress pleas

Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday morning in the criminal trial of former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro for breaching a congressional subpoena related to the Jan. 6 riots.

The contempt of Congress trial moved at a brisk pace this week, with jury selection on Tuesday, followed by opening statements and testimony on Wednesday.

The jury in the federal courthouse in Washington is expected to hear the case Thursday afternoon and could deliver its verdict later in the day.

In their opening statements, government lawyers argued that the case regarding Navarro’s failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House committee on Jan. 6 was straightforward.

“This case is about a guy who didn’t provide any documents. This case is just about a guy who didn’t show up for his testimony,” prosecutor John Crabb said. “Yes, this case is as simple as that.”

Navarro was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress: one for failure to provide documents and the other for failure to testify. The two counts each carry a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in prison, in addition to a maximum fine of $100,000.

Defense attorney Stanley Woodward told the jury in his opening statement that Navarro did not dispute many of the facts presented in the case, including the fact that he received and accepted a subpoena and that he had neither appeared to testify nor produced the required documents. But Woodward argued that Navarro did not willfully fail to comply with the subpoena, a crucial part of the case.

Prosecutors called three January 6 committee staff as witnesses, while the defense called no witnesses.

Walking into the courthouse on Wednesday morning, Navarro carried a sign with an enlarged photo of former President Donald Trump giving a salute. When asked why he had this sign, Navarro replied, “Commander in Chief.”

Navarro declined to speak to reporters as he left the courthouse on Wednesday afternoon.

Before the trial began, Navarro repeatedly asserted executive privilege to avoid contempt charges. He argued that Trump ordered him to invoke a power that can be used to shield presidential deliberations to prevent him from sharing information with the Jan. 6 panel.

In a ruling last week, the judge hearing the case dismissed that argument, noting that the “extraordinary assertion of power” conferred by executive privilege should “not be invoked lightly” and pointing to the absence evidence to support Navarro’s claim.

Trump has presented no evidence claiming he claimed executive privilege in Navarro’s case.

Navarro has repeatedly hinted that his case will be destined for the Supreme Court. “Because this case is not really about me,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s about the constitutional separation of powers and executive privilege.”

Woodward told NBC News on Wednesday that Navarro was prepared to appeal if the jury found him guilty.

Navarro is one of many Trump allies who have been charged with contempt of Congress in recent years.

Last year, a jury found former White House strategist Steve Bannon guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress for his failure to cooperate with a Jan. 6 committee subpoena. He was sentenced to four months in prison and fined $6,500.

In 2021, the Democratic-led House tried former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt for his refusal to answer questions about the Capitol riot. The Justice Department declined to prosecute Meadows.