Navarro defies House subpoena in coronavirus probe

The former trade adviser, who urged Trump in February 2020 to prepare for virus, has emerged as a focus of Democrats’ probe

A senior Trump administration official told the House panel probing the government’s coronavirus response that he will not comply with their subpoena, escalating a fight with Democrats investigating the handling of the pandemic.

Peter Navarro, who served as President Donald Trump’s trade adviser and closely consulted on the White House’s virus strategy, cited a “direct order” from the former president to claim executive privilege, according to a letter released on Saturday by the panel.

“[T]his matter is out of my hands and something that the Sub-Committee should discuss with President Trump’s counsel,” Navarro wrote to the committee on Dec. 7, rejecting their requests to turn over documents and share other information about the White House coronavirus response by their Dec. 8 deadline.

Navarro did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

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. Democrats have given Navarro until Dec. 15 to sit for a deposition and on demanded again on Saturday that he turn over relevant records.

The panel, which was first convened last year, has conducted months of interviews with officials involved in the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, including former senior officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as Nancy Messonnier and Anne Schuchat. Democrats also have released documents and interview transcripts that they say substantiate claims that Trump officials interfered in health experts’ work and mishandled the response.