There’s a certain irony when a group of people keep trying to wave the same flawed flag, only to have it set on fire every time. The Trump circle seems to think “executive privilege” is a magical phrase, like an incantation that’ll render them invincible to the law.
Last year, Donald Trump, no longer in office, decided to use “executive privilege” to dodge handing over documents. Steve Bannon, another ex-Trump aide, tried the same trick in 2021, thinking he could shrug off a subpoena from the House’s January 6 Committee. Mind you, this is the same guy who hasn’t been in the White House since 2017.
But the spotlight today is on Peter Navarro. Former Trump adviser Navarro must’ve felt some FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) because he played the same card last year, dodging a subpoena by waving the vague “executive privilege” banner.
News flash: Executive privilege is a genuine concept. It’s just not the magic wand Trump and his associates seem to believe it is. Result? Navarro got convicted, swiftly, on two counts of contempt of Congress.
Now, to be fair, presidents do have a right to sometimes hold back information, especially when it concerns confidential advice. But there’s a method to this madness. The privilege needs to be properly invoked, and if you’re subpoenaed, you gotta engage, communicate, and delineate what you can and can’t spill.
And here’s where Navarro’s ship hit the iceberg. He simply emailed back “executive privilege” with no further details. He tried to argue that Trump whispered in his ear to invoke privilege, but without any documented proof. And to make matters worse, he ghosted his scheduled deposition. Not cool, Navarro.
Prosecutors brought up a pretty good point: If Navarro was gunning for executive privilege, he should’ve asserted it clearly, answering specific questions and mentioning any documents he was withholding.
What did Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Aloi have to say about Navarro’s “brilliant” strategy? “The defendant chose allegiance to President Trump over compliance with the subpoena. That is contempt. That is a crime.” Mic drop.
Though Navarro was part of the White House, the actions he’s under the scanner for are in no way connected to his official trade adviser duties. He’s under heat for cooking up a report on voter fraud and plotting to stop Biden’s inauguration. Before the trial, Judge Amit Mehta shut down any chance of Navarro suggesting that Trump told him to ditch the subpoena. Mehta even called this claim “weak sauce.” Ouch.
Despite the clear evidence against him, Navarro’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, gave a lukewarm defense. No witnesses, no testimony from Navarro himself. Just a hopeful suggestion that maybe Navarro’s failure was a mere oversight, not willful contempt. Right.
It’s clear Navarro’s banking on winning an appeal. But Bannon’s appeal and Navarro’s potential fate seem to be telling a different story. At this point, it’s almost like a parable on the pitfalls of using personal interpretations of the Constitution against solid case law. Navarro may be looking at jail time, and Bannon’s already got a four-month sentence waiting for him.
The Trump gang might believe that shouting “executive privilege” puts them on a pedestal above the law. However, the courts, it seems, beg to differ. The moral of the story? Just because you believe in magic, doesn’t mean you’re Harry Potter.