DC – The January 6th insurrection was a day when the entire world watched the US Capitol in a state that could best be described by Ralph Waldo Emerson; that is, “The mob is man voluntarily descending to the nature of the beast.”
While the fecal matter of the Jan 6th mob has long since been cleaned from the walls, the January 6th Commission of Congress is still attempting to sort out responsibility, with televised hearings to begin on June 9th. The characters involved in this range from the Oath Keepers charging in with weapons, to the “Stop the Steal” crowd like Ali Alexander and Ginny Thomas that spent months calling for and organizing an insurgency, to many who showed up for a protest and got drawn in by organizers fighting their way through the police.
A key player in attempting to overturn the election, Peter Navarro, is currently fighting a subpoena issued by the Jan. 6th select committee to testify. This subpoena issued by a grand jury is the second he has received regarding Jan. 6th, the first being issued by Congress. After ignoring the subpoena, he was indicted and arrested for contempt of Congress.
Who Is Peter Navarro?
Peter Navarro was an aide to former President Trump. His official position was the Assistant to the President, National Defense Production Act Policy Coordinator, and Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. Both his position in the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and the Office of the National Trade Council were created by Trump and then dissolved.
Navarro is best known for naming Steve Bannon’s plan to block the electoral college vote count by making repeated challenges to vote counts by Republicans to keep Trump in power the “Green Bay Sweep.” The Green Bay Sweep was a procedural strategy to attempt to overturn the 2020 election, which he participated in and outlined in a book he published last year. The plan was to delay counts in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin for long enough that Donald Trump would have received more electoral college votes than Joe Biden, despite Biden having won as per election law.
It had some initial success: 10 GOP senators like Ted Cruz (R-TX) refused to certify the 2020 results, laying the groundwork for challenging what they knew were legitimate election results. Had January 6th not brought a violent mob that erected gallows so close to Republican legislators, it is difficult to tell how the vote would have proceeded with a significant number of Republicans digging in their heels and refusing to certify.
Navarro worked on getting Republican state legislators to comply with the plan. This involved the now-infamous recording of Donald Trump speaking with Georgia’s Secretary of State to “find” him enough votes to overturn the results.
After being indicted and arrested for contempt of Congress, Navarro went on a bit of a rant that
included “RHINOs” (Republicans In Name Only), talks of pro se representation, and a plug for his book to pay his legal costs.
Select Committees and Subpoenas
A subpoena is a request to produce documents or for an individual to appear in proceedings, such as testimony before Congress. The term subpoena translates to “under penalty,” and failure to respond to a subpoena can result in a contempt charge. Contempt can result in incarceration depending on the charges and jurisdiction.
A select committee is a legislative committee appointed for a particular purpose. It is created by a resolution and conducts investigations or considers actions, typically on a specific topic. Although many legislators wanted a more powerful commission, the National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex Act that could have established it was filibustered and blocked by Republicans despite having a majority of votes in the Senate to move forward, including several Republicans. Due to the filibuster blocking everything without a supermajority of votes and Republicans filibustering anything to do with holding parties involved with the January 6th attack accountable, the weaker select committee was formed over their objection.
The Jan. 6th committee has had its difficulties, with Republicans trying to advance only the most pro-Trump legislators to the committee to act like a handful of sand thrown in the gears. Ultimately, only Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger were chosen for the committee, and both were officially censured by the Republican National Committee.
Prior to the select committee to investigate January 6th, the most high-profile select committee was the United States Senate Watergate Committee, officially called the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. This select committee investigated President Nixon and the Watergate incident, calling individuals before Congress to offer testimony and be examined by legislators who formed the committee.
The Watergate committee was aired on CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS, with most American households tuning in at some point. Considering the profound effect of Jan. 6th on politics and culture as a major point of division in an already divided country, the upcoming Jan. 6th hearings will likely be seen as just as relevant.
Why is Navarro Relevant?
Navarro does have a semblance of a point: Testimony regarding Jan. 6th is a surprisingly complicated matter as it implicates the confidential communications of a former President, which have been set aside by the current President. This could become a precedent where a President can look into a former President from the other party to wrongfully dig up dirt and potentially criminal charges.
However, the argument that I find more compelling is that no President is above the law, and a democracy must be able to protect itself from those actively working to undermine democratic
processes. If there are no consequences for a failed coup, history has repeatedly shown that it will be attempted again. While I personally abhor the Nazi comparison, I fully agree with the Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley that Trump’s attempt to wind up a crowd and aim them at the Capitol to interrupt certifying the election was a “Reichstag moment” (or, at the very least, a Beer Hall Putsch).
The Watergate hearings resulted in Richard Nixon’s “Watergate Seven” spending years in prison and served as a warning for those who would help a President flagrantly break election law. The upcoming hearings may have the same effect, with a large portion of the country still wondering why more people are not in prison for the attack on the Capitol. There will be significant incentive for criminal prosecutions, and witnesses must currently be racking their memories for sound bytes or incriminating evidence that Liz Cheney, who may have narrowly escaped death at the hands of a mob on Jan. 6th, will be very interested in digging up. Additionally, a cynical look at the political environment shows many, such as Democrat and Independent district attorneys, will be looking for an excuse to look like a hero to their voters by putting away a Trump toady in their jurisdiction for as long as possible.
Should Peter Navarro spend two years in jail, which could happen with his contempt charge, his prison sentence will serve the same ends.
Navarro’s arrest about a week before the Jan. 6th hearings can set the tone, remind those testifying of the consequences of not complying, and put a significant amount of pressure to participate in good faith, i.e. not committing perjury. In keeping with his modus operandi, Trump may attempt to influence testimony. Should this happen, Navarro’s arrest, combined with Trump’s inability to dangle a presidential pardon for at least another two and a half years, will be a strong countervailing force – The Current Affairs Times
Thumbnail Credits: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
- This is a legal analysis by Attorney Ryan Campbell.