The House voted Wednesday to recommend two former advisers to former President Donald Trump be referred to the Department of Justice on criminal contempt of Congress charges.
The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol Hill riot is looking to hold Trump White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino and Trump’s onetime trade adviser Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress for their refusal to cooperate with the panel’s investigation or appear for their respective scheduled depositions.
The House vote was 220-203. Just two Republicans – Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois – voted for the resolution. The pair also serve on the January 6 committee.
“Both of these men have refused to comply with the Select Committee’s subpoenas in any way,” Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who chairs the committee, testified in front of the House Rules Committee on Monday.
Scavino used a series of delay tactics to prevent any type of substantive cooperation with its investigation, according to the committee, which argues he never substantively engaged and therefore was in violation of his subpoena. Scavino is one of Trump’s closest and most loyal allies, having served in the administration from beginning to end and as one of his earliest campaign staffers.
He was intimately involved with Trump’s social media channels, often posting message to Trump’s followers on the then-President’s behalf. The committee believes Scavino is privy to meetings and details of the events leading up to and on January 6, 2021, including strategy sessions that were directly tied to Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The committee has cited news stories that discuss Scavino tracking the website “TheDonald.win,” which their report describes as an “online forum frequented by individuals who openly advocated and planned violence in the weeks leading up to January 6th.”
Scavino has still contested his need to testify, according to a letter from his attorney Stanley Brand to the White House on March 25, which Brand provided to CNN on Sunday.
The letter kicked legal questions back to the Biden administration, which had determined it would not protect any of Scavino’s testimony.
Scavino, however, has argued the law isn’t settled yet on whether the current President can waive privilege on all testimony, including Scavino’s conversations with Trump, especially if Trump may make a claim to secrecy of his own.
The committee has accused Navarro, a former White House trade adviser, of making no effort to comply with its subpoena request, claiming that Navarro made it clear that he was unable to cooperate because Trump had asserted executive privilege in the matter.
The committee has argued against Navarro’s use of executive privilege, citing for example that many of the topics it wanted to discuss with him he had already written about in great detail in his book.
Navarro said in a statement following Wednesday’s vote, “President Trump has asserted executive privilege, it is not my privilege to waive, and the appropriate course of action would have been for the Committee to negotiate this matter directly with the president as I directed them do.”
Navarro has been very public about his attempts to work with the Trump campaign to subvert the 2020 election. In his book, he details a plan called the “Green Bay Sweep,” which involved convincing state leaders in several swing states to call into question the election results in an attempt to delay and eventually prevent the certification.
In a previous statement to CNN, Navarro responded to the committee’s contempt report filing by saying he believes President Joe Biden does not have the ability to waive Trump’s executive privilege in his case. He also claimed that the committee’s investigation is predicated on a false notion that the 2020 presidential election was “free and fair.”
“My position remains this is not my Executive Privilege to waive and the Committee should negotiate this matter with President Trump,” Navarro said in a statement. “If he waives the privilege, I will be happy to comply; but I see no effort by the Committee to clarify this matter with President Trump, which is bad faith and bad law.”
Cheney, who serves as vice chair on the committee, said on Tuesday, “There is no standard under law by which you can simply say ‘I’m not coming because somebody told me not to,’ even if that person is the former President of the United States.”
Now that the referrals have passed out of the House, they will be sent to the Department of Justice, which will decide if there is enough evidence to prosecute. The committee has advanced three previous criminal referrals.
The first referral from the House, for former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, was picked up by the Justice Department and has led to an indictment of Bannon. He faces a criminal trial this summer.
The Justice Department is still reviewing the contempt referral of former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, which the full House voted on in December. Scavino was initially subpoenaed at the same time as Bannon and Meadows.
A third contempt referral, for former DOJ staffer Jeffrey Clark, was voted out of committee but did not make it to the House floor after Clark agreed to meet with the committee. Clark sat for an interview but pleaded the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Paula Reid contributed to this report.