Navarro served as one of former President Donald Trump’s pandemic response advisers and was, in part, responsible for curating the response to the virus. CNN previously reported he warned the White House in a January 2020 memo the virus could become a “full-blown pandemic.”
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis issued the subpoena last month as part of its probe into the federal response to the pandemic, originally requesting Navarro provide documents by December 8 and a deposition on December 15.
Defying the request for documents Navarro wrote in a letter on December 7, “It is a direct order that I should not comply with the subpoena.”
The subcommittee has still given Navarro until December 15 to sit for a deposition and demanded again Saturday he turn over relevant documents.
Navarro said in his letter to the subcommittee — and addressed the letter to “Representative Rayburn” — he would not cooperate because Trump told him to “protect executive privilege.”
Navarro presumably intended to address the letter to Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat and chairman of the coronavirus crisis panel. The subcommittee resides in the Rayburn House Office Building.
The Washington Post first reported on the refusal.
Clyburn responded in a letter to Navarro he had no valid basis for refusing to comply and he had waived any privilege by writing about conversations with Trump on the coronavirus response.
The refusal is “particularly indefensible given that you disclosed many details about your work in the White House, including details of conversations with the former President about the pandemic response, in your recent book and related press tour,” Clyburn said in a letter to Navarro on Saturday.
Failing to comply with a subpoena can put a potential witness in contempt of Congress, which can lead to escalating financial penalties and the possibility of jail time.
One of Trump’s former advisers, Steve Bannon, was indicted for contempt of Congress last month over his refusal to testify to the committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Navarro could not be immediately reached for a response to Clyburn’s letter.
In a statement, Trump confirmed he asked Navarro not to cooperate.
“The Communist Democrats are engaging in yet another Witch Hunt, this time going after my Administration’s unprecedented and incredible coronavirus response, despite the fact that, sadly, more Americans have died this year from Covid than in all of 2020,” he said in a statement. “It is a Witch Hunt … I’m telling Peter Navarro to protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments. The Witch Hunts must end!”