Ex-Trump adviser Peter Navarro pleads not guilty to contempt charges in January 6 case – as it happened

8 days ago

Ex-Trump adviser Peter Navarro pleads not guilty to contempt charges in January 6 case – as it happened

The Guardian

Closing summary

Thanks for joining the US politics blog for another day of news from Washington and across the United States. The ongoing January 6 hearings were a major story this week as were the Senate negotiations over gun control, both of which will continue next week.

Here’s a recap of what happened today:

Monday is the Juneteenth federal holiday and thus, the blog will return on Tuesday, with the supreme court set to release another batch of decisions at 10 am eastern time, and the January 6 committee meeting later in the day.

Legendary journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reunited today to mark the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, the event that came to define their careers and resulted in President Richard Nixon’s eventual resignation.

But much of today’s discussion at the DC headquarters of The Washington Post, the newspaper that published Woodward and Bernstein’s history-making scoops 50 years ago, focused on more recent events.

Bernstein drew a direct comparison between Nixon and Donald Trump, who he described as “a seditious, criminal president”.

Pointing to the January 6 insurrection, Bernstein said Trump “staged an attempted coup, such as you would see in a junta [or] in a banana republic”.

“But one of the things that’s developing that’s very different than in Watergate is that the wife of a supreme court justice is now part of the story,” Bernstein said, referring to Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.

The January 6 committee has obtained messages showing Thomas communicated with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and conservative lawyer John Eastman about efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“It looks very much like -- and certainly is the opinion of a number of people on that committee -- that she is caught up in the conspiracy and very likely is a co-conspirator,” Bernstein said.

Noting that Thomas has indicated she will cooperate with the committee’s requests for information, Woodward said of the committee members, “They’re treading very carefully, and I think wisely.”

Texas senator John Cornyn has the attention of Democrats in Washington for being willing to negotiate over a gun control compromise, but those efforts have apparently earned him the ire of some of his fellow Republicans back home.

Here’s a clip of how his speech went at the state party’s convention:

Cornyn is the lead Republican negotiator on the gun control compromise, which Democrats have acknowledged is nowhere near as strong as they would like it to be, but better than nothing when it comes to responding to the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo New York.

The Houston Chronicle has a look at the stakes for Cornyn back home, where his detractors accuse him of violating their “God given rights.”

In the telling of the January 6 committee’s witnesses, Trump reasoned with, pressured and finally berated Mike Pence in the lead-up to the certification of the 2020 election, all in a failed effort to stop Joe Biden from taking the White House.

Speaking in Nashville, the former president has offered his take on what happened between him and Pence in the closing weeks of their term:

Trump has long insisted, with no evidence, that he won the electoral college in 2020, but here he is now claiming that he also won the popular vote. In reality, he was defeated by an even bigger margin than in 2016.

The committee aired testimony yesterday that on the morning of January 6, Trump called Pence and used harsh language — including what one witness said was the “p word” — to get him to go along with his plot to prevent the certification of the 2020 vote. Trump has a different take:

Updated

On stage now at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s event in Nashville, Trump has condemned the January 6 committee in language that’s familiar to anyone who remembers his time in the White House.

The Guardian’s David Smith is there:

Republican Cheney’s opposition to Trump has particularly high stakes for her continued career as the lone House representative for Wyoming. She faces a primary challenger endorsed by the former president who appears to be beating her in opinion polls.

The Wall Street Journal has secured an interview with Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence, the star of yesterday’s January 6 hearing, though he himself didn’t attend.

The interview contains a bit of news: Pence is thinking about running for the Republican nomination in 2024 — which would likely put him up against Trump, whom he hasn’t spoken to in “about a year”:

Mr. Pence said his own decision on whether to mount another campaign, likely to come in early 2023, will be based on prayer with his wife and conversations with friends, not on whether Mr. Trump decides to run.

“We’ll go where we’re called,” Mr. Pence said. “But I won’t let anybody else make that decision for me.”

The article shows Pence is otherwise returning to his mainstream Republican roots, stumping for candidates such as Ohio governor Mike DeWine, Georgia governor Brian Kemp and Arizona governor Doug Ducey — all of whom clashed with Trump. On Monday, Pence will be in Chicago for a speech on economic policy, a potent attack line against president Joe Biden, given how high inflation is in the United States.

As we await Trump’s speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s event in Nashville, take a look at this report from Hugo Lowell on tension between the January 6 committee and federal prosecutors, who would like to take a look at what the congressional probe has found:

Tensions between the US justice department and the House of Representatives January 6 select committee have escalated after federal prosecutors complained that their inability to access witness transcripts was hampering criminal investigations into rioters who stormed the Capitol.

The complaint that came from the heads of the justice department’s national security and criminal divisions and the US attorney for Washington Matthew Graves showed a likely collision course for the parallel congressional and criminal probes into the Capitol attack.

“The interviews the select committee conducted are not just potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions,” Graves wrote, alongside assistant attorneys general Kenneth Polite and Matthew Olsen.

“The select committee’s failure to grant the department access to these transcripts complicates the department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal conduct in relation to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.”

It looks like the gun control negotiations aren’t going as smoothly as expected in the Senate.

Recall that the week began with news of a compromise reached between Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation in response to the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York.

It appeared to have momentum. The Senate’s Democratic leader said he would put the legislation up for a vote as soon as it was written, while the chamber’s top Republican Mitch McConnell said he would support it, boosting its chances of passage since it will need the support of at least 10 of his party’s lawmakers to pass. But now it’s Friday, and here we are.

January 6 committee sets fourth hearing for next Tuesday

The January 6 committee has announced it will hold its fourth hearing next Tuesday at 1 pm eastern time.

At the third hearing held on Thursday, committee members detailed the efforts by Trump to pressure his vice-president Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election at the joint sitting of Congress set for January 6, 2021.

As communities across the state grapple with a historic bout of flooding that has imperiled the water supply of its largest city, many in Montana are wondering: where is the governor?

State officials have only said that Greg Gianforte was on a planned trip abroad, but wouldn’t mention the location. The answer appears to be Italy’s Tuscany region, according to Newsy:

Newsy obtained a photo of Gianforte and the first lady at a restaurant in Casole d’Elsa, which is a small village in the Tuscany region of Italy. The photo is time-stamped at 9:31 p.m. local time Wednesday.

A source that wishes to remain anonymous sent us a photo of the couple dining with multiple other people. The governor’s office confirmed Gianforte was out of the country when it was noticed his lieutenant governor signed a statewide emergency declaration as acting governor.

A spokesperson said he and the first lady left late last week on a long-planned personal trip, but details about the timeline and the destination were left out.

The Montana Free Press reports on how cagey the state has been about the whereabouts of Gianforte, a Republican elected in 2020:

A spokesperson for the governor’s office has said only that Gianforte left the country last week, before the Yellowstone River rose to take out massive chunks of infrastructure and isolate entire communities in Park, Carbon and Stillwater counties, on a “long-scheduled personal trip” with his wife, Susan Gianforte. But the office has declined to say what country Gianforte is visiting and specifically when the governor will be back in Montana.

“The governor is returning early and as quickly as possible,” gubernatorial spokesperson Brooke Strokye said in a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to repeated questions from the media.

The governor’s whereabouts have been an increasing topic of speculation on social media after Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras signed a declaration of disaster Tuesday in response to the flooding in southern Montana.

“The fact that [the flooding] is so extreme and his office has just been pretty recalcitrant about where he is and what’s going on is not great,” said Eric Austin, a public administration professor at Montana State University who teaches a class on government leadership and ethics.

There are legitimate reasons why a public official would not share their location during international travel, Austin said, but during a natural disaster, “perceptually, that doesn’t really help.”

According to NBC Montana, Gianforte was supposed to return to the state on Thursday.

Our David Smith is at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference in Nashville, Tennessee, a fascinating gathering of parts of the Republican party.

Donald Trump is speaking there a day after he was accused on Capitol Hill of endangering his own vice president’s life, calling Mike Pence the p-word (about which Stephen Colbert cogitates) and “setting the mob” on him, per the House select committee.

Senator Rick Scott, formerly Florida governor, is there and speaking. here’s Smith on the spot reporting via Twitter. He’ll have a dispatch later.

That’s mild.

Rick Scott earlier this week.

From the pulpit of Rick Scott. Florida Senator Scott holds a news article on gas prices during a press conference in Washington earlier this week.
From the pulpit of Rick Scott. Florida Senator Scott holds a news article on gas prices during a press conference in Washington earlier this week. Photograph: Bonnie Cash/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

Smith on Pence:

And Colbert:

Updated

Interim summary

It’s been a busy morning in US political news, though not as frenzied as some. There’s more to come and Donald Trump is due to speak at the top of the hour at the extraordinarily-named Faith & Freedom Road to Majority conference in Nashville, Tennessee. A day after he was repeatedly accused of breaking the law from both right and left at the third January 6 hearing into the 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.

Here’s where things stand:

  • Joe Biden has cheered the Food and Drug Administration’s decision today to authorize Covid-19 vaccines for children younger than five years old, the last group of Americans that didn’t have access to the jabs.
  • The Iowa supreme court issued a ruling that would make it easier for the state to curtail or ban abortion procedures outright, days before the US Supreme Court is set to rule in a pivotal abortion case out of Mississippi that includes a request to overturn Roe v Wade.
  • Ex-Trump advisor Peter Navarro pleads not guilty to two charges of contempt of Congress in relation to the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by extremist supporters of Donald Trump trying, in vain, to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.
  • The US president gives a rare one-on-one interview, to the Associated Press and talks about the climate crisis, Americans’ low morale in a sea of coronavirus and division, says a recession is not inevitable and, essentially, stakes his presidency on continued support for Ukraine’s against-the-odds resistance to the Russian invasion, warning: “If we let Russia roll and Putin roll, he wouldn’t stop.”

Biden hails FDA authorization of Covid vaccines for young children

President Joe Biden has cheered the Food and Drug Administration’s decision today to authorize Covid-19 vaccines for children younger than five years old, the last group of Americans that didn’t have access to the jabs.

“Today is a day of huge relief for parents and families across America. Following a rigorous scientific review, the Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first COVID-19 vaccines for kids under the age of five. As early as next week, pending recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parents will finally be able to get their youngest kids the protection of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

“We are the first country to protect our youngest children with COVID-19 vaccines, offering safe and highly effective mRNA doses to children as young as six months old. My Administration secured vaccine doses for America’s youngest children and now with FDA’s authorization, we will begin shipping millions of vaccine doses for kids to thousands of locations parents know and trust—including pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals, and pharmacies. As doses are delivered, parents will be able to start scheduling vaccinations for their youngest kids as early as next week, with appointments ramping up over the coming days and weeks.”

Those who have been following the inflation story closely know that car buyers often find themselves on the losing end of the nationwide price surge. For The Guardian, Allan Chernoff reports on the lengths one man went just to pay sticker price for a new Toyota:

After an auto dealer demanded $10,000 above sticker price for a new hybrid vehicle, car shopper Michael Rathjen of Kirkland, Washington, resolved to pay no more than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the vehicle of his choice. He never dreamed his quest would take him eight months and 3,000 miles from home.

“I’m calling across the entire country. I’m thinking this is not going to be possible. I’m not going to find a dealer selling at MSRP,” recalled Rathjen, a technical writer. “I kept calling further and further away until I hit Vermont.”

In early May, Rathjen flew to Burlington, Vermont, to pick up his new Toyota RAV4 Prime, paid $51,000 for the fully equipped premium model, then immediately turned around and drove it cross-country to bring it home. The drive took eight days, with some stops to see sights and friends.

Near-record low inventory levels, supply chain backups and production delays do not fully capture the monumental challenge confronting consumers seeking to buy a popular new car, light truck or SUV without being gouged by profiteering dealers. Determined shoppers who want to pay sticker price in today’s market must rely upon a reservoir of persistence and patience, and, in some cases, travel hundreds, even thousands of miles. Even so, shoppers like Rathjen are happy to do so. “I felt very lucky to get exactly what I wanted, and at MSRP,” he said.

No, redistricting is not over. Louisiana has filed a petition before the supreme court asking it to overturn a lower court’s ruling that ordered it to draw a second majority Black congressional district to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Louisiana’s Democratic governor and it’s Republican-led legislature have been in a lengthy tussle over the state’s congressional map, as the Associated Press reports.

The supreme court will issue batches of opinions next week on Tuesday and Thursday, and, as always, the justices could release decisions on any of the cases before them, including one that could overturn abortion rights.

The nation’s highest court isn’t alone in considering abortion rights. Earlier today, the Iowa supreme court issued a ruling that would make it easier for the state to curtail or ban the procedure outright, according to the Associated Press:

The court, now composed almost entirely of Republican appointees, concluded that a less conservative court wrongly decided that abortion is among the fundamental privacy rights guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution and federal law.

Friday’s ruling comes amid expectations that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Then Iowa lawmakers could ban abortion in the state without completing the lengthy process of amending the state constitution.

The Iowa decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by abortion providers who challenged a 2020 law that required a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could get an abortion. A judge who struck down the law cited the state high court’s 2018 ruling. The judge also concluded the law violated rules prohibiting passage of bills with more than one subject.

Meanwhile in Kansas, voters will in August be asked to decide on a new amendment to the state constitution that would also allow lawmakers in the conservative state to ban abortion. The Kansas City Star has a good report on how groups supporting and opposing the amendment are crafting their campaigns to attract moderate voters:

One of the first two TV ads aimed at defeating an anti-abortion amendment in Kansas doesn’t use the word abortion once.

“Kansans don’t want another government mandate,” the ad, titled “mandate” says while a photo of a church closure sign flashes across the screen.

The ad was released Wednesday morning by Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, a coalition of advocacy organizations and abortion providers fighting the amendment, alongside an additional 30-second spot that mentions abortion once —but only in the context of rape, incest and life of the mother.

Hours later Kansans for Life, one of the leading organizations fighting for passage of the amendment, distanced itself from its national affiliate after the organization published model legislation that would ban abortion in nearly all instances.

“In the event Roe v. Wade is overturned, states will have a significant opportunity to protect the unborn,” James Bopp, Jr., general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, said in a statement.

“In doing so, it is important that such states not only prohibit illegal abortions, but also employ a robust enforcement regime, so that these laws are sure to be enforced.”

Peter Navarro pleads not guilty to two charges of contempt of Congress

Former Trump administration trade adviser Peter Navarro arrives for a court appearance at the US District Court in Washington, DC on 17 June 2022.
Former Trump administration trade adviser Peter Navarro arrives for a court appearance at the US District Court in Washington, DC on 17 June 2022. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Then there are those who refuse to cooperate with the January 6 committee, such as Peter Navarro, a former top adviser on trade to Trump. He’s just pleaded not guilty to two charges of contempt of Congress over his refusal to provide documents or testify to the House panel, Reuters reports.

Navarro was indicted and taken into custody earlier this month on the charges, despite his insistence that executive privilege protected him from cooperating with the probe.

As The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell has reported:

Navarro was referred to the justice department for criminal contempt of Congress by the full House of Representatives in April after he entirely ignored a subpoena issued to him in February demanding that he produce documents and appear for a deposition.

The top White House trade adviser to Trump was deeply involved in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election from the very start, the Guardian has previously reported, deputizing his aides to help produce reports on largely debunked claims of election fraud.

Navarro was also in touch with Trump’s legal team led by Rudy Giuliani and operatives working from a Trump “war room” at the Willard hotel in Washington to stop Biden’s election certification from taking place on January 6 – a plan he christened the “Green Bay Sweep”.

Updated

Former US Court of Appeals judge for the Fourth Circuit, J Michael Luttig, testifies during a public hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol, on 16 June 2022.
Former US Court of Appeals judge for the Fourth Circuit, J Michael Luttig, testifies during a public hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol, on 16 June 2022. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

He spoke slowly and at times haltingly, but noted conservative jurist J Michael Luttig offered some of the harshest condemnations and direst warnings at yesterday’s January 6 committee hearings.

In fact, most of his toughest words were actually written down in the opening statement he sent to the committee before the hearing, which was not read during its televised session.

The Washington Post has a good rundown of Luttig’s arguments, both from that statement and from his testimony:

He spared few in public life. Though he is clear about Trump’s role in starting the war over the 2020 election that erupted into violence, he sees the broader internal political divisions, the war that preceded the insurrection, as the end result of the conduct of virtually the entire class of elected officials and their allies. In his telling, this war was “conceived and instigated from our nation’s capital … [and] cynically prosecuted by them to fever pitch, now to the point that they have recklessly put America herself at stake.”

Luttig described America as “adrift” and said he prays that it is only for a fleeting moment in the long span of American history. But his diagnosis of what he called “an immoral war” is frightening in its implications. He wrote: “We Americans no longer agree on what is right or wrong, what is to be valued and what is not, what is acceptable behavior and not, and what is and is not tolerable discourse in civilized society.”

Americans cannot agree on how to be governed or by whom or on a set of shared values, beliefs and goals. The attack that Trump instigated, he argued, was a natural “and foreseeable culmination” of the broader war for America. Trump was prepared to execute a plan to overturn the election to cling to power “that the American people had decided to confer upon his successor.”

Updated

The partner of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, has a message for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Speaking on CNN following Thursday’s hearing of the House committee investigating the attack, Sandra Garza took the couple to task for not speaking up as Trump made clear his plans for that day.

Yes, it’s hard to stand up to a family member, a father, a father in law, but you could have done something. You could have avoided the bloodshed that took place, including the suicides that took place after.

You can watch the interview here.

It’s Biden’s White House today, but yesterday’s January 6 committee hearing made clear that things could have turned out very different that day in 2021 if Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence had decided to act differently, as my colleague Joan E Greve reports.

The January 6 select committee showed on Thursday that Mike Pence withstood an intense pressure campaign from Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump’s advisers repeatedly tried to convince Pence to disrupt the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory on January 6, even after they themselves acknowledged that there was no constitutional basis for the vice-president to do so.

Pence ultimately refused to interfere with the certification process, despite facing threats to his personal safety from Trump’s supporters who stormed the Capitol. But if Pence had acquiesced to Trump’s demands, the US could have faced an unprecedented constitutional crisis, the committee warned on Thursday.

There was a lot in Biden’s interview with the Associated Press, which was in and of itself notable for happening at all, since the president doesn’t sit down with reporters that often.

Biden retold the story of how the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then-president Trump’s response to it, spurred him to jump into the 2020 race:

I made a commitment and I think I can say that I’ve never broken, if I make a commitment. I wasn’t going to run again, this time. I mean for real. I was not going to run. I just lost my son, I was teaching at Penn, I liked it, until all those guys came, come out of the woods ...

AP: Charlottesville.

BIDEN: ... the Charlottesville folks and this other guy said “good people on both sides” when an innocent woman was killed, etc. And, I made a decision. I’ve been doing this too long to do anything other than to try to do what was right.

He went on to defend the America Rescue Plan, his $1.9 trillion spending bill signed last year which is the subject of debate among economists over the degree to which it has contributed to the economy’s current overheating.

Zero evidence of that. Zero evidence of that, number one. Number two, we’ve reduced the deficit by $350 billion last year. We reduced the deficit by a trillion, 700 billion this year. We grow the economy. Today, today, we have more people employed than, in a long, long time and we gained another 8.6 million jobs. And guess what? We still have hundreds of thousands of job openings.

Finally, he acknowledged that the fallout from the death, job losses and disruptions to normal life caused by Covid-19 had damaged the national psyche:

Think about what it’s like for the graduating classes of the last three years. No proms. No graduation. No, no, none of the things that celebrate who we are. Think about it across the board. How isolated we’ve become. How separated we’ve become. Even practical questions like, you know, can you go out on a date? I mean (inaudible) the normal socialization, how does that take place? There’s overwhelming evidence it’s had a profound impact on the psyche of parents, children, across the board. And we lost a million people.

And nine for every, according to a study, of those million people, nine significant family or close friends were left alive after they’re gone.

AP: So you’re talking about a country that has undergone profound psychological trauma.

BIDEN: Yes.

AP: What can you as a president do to address that psychology ...

BIDEN: Be confident.

AP: ... to make people feel more optimistic. Be confident?

BIDEN: Be confident. Be confident. Because I am confident. We are better positioned than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century. That’s not hyperbole. That’s a fact.

Biden hints stopping Russia his priority, despite challenges at home

Good morning, US politics blog readers. What does Joe Biden want his presidency’s legacy to be? It’s a question worth asking, given the many challenges facing his White House, and a hint into Biden’s thinking was revealed during an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday. “I’d say to the American people I’ve done foreign policy my whole career. I’m convinced that if we let Russia roll and Putin roll, he wouldn’t stop,” the president said. Perhaps seeing Russia defeated in Ukraine is the answer.

America’s support for Ukraine isn’t all that’s on the agenda in Washington today: