Peter Navarro, who served as trade adviser to former President Donald J. Trump and who fought with government scientists while helping to orchestrate the administration’s coronavirus response, is refusing to respond to a congressional subpoena for documents, telling lawmakers he is following a “direct order” from Mr. Trump not to comply.
House Democrats released Mr. Navarro’s written response to their subpoena on Saturday, along with a letter asking him to appear on Wednesday for a deposition before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which is investigating the federal pandemic response, including whether Trump administration officials interfered with scientific decisions.
“Your blanket refusal to comply with the subpoena in its entirety is improper,” Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the committee chairman and the No. 3 House Democrat, wrote to Mr. Navarro in a letter the committee made public. He added: “It is abundantly clear that you possess information responsive to the subpoena that is not covered by any colorable claims of executive privilege.”
The demand sets up a clash that could result in a move by House Democrats to hold Mr. Navarro in contempt of Congress, if he fails to appear. Last month, another Trump adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, surrendered to authorities after a grand jury indicted him on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide information to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Mr. Clyburn issued a subpoena to Mr. Navarro in November, calling on him to provide any documents — including a “daily journal” Mr. Navarro has said he kept while working at the White House — related to the pandemic response.
Mr. Navarro wrote back this week, citing a public statement by Mr. Trump, who had said he was instructing Mr. Navarro “to protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments.” Mr. Navarro said he construed it as a “direct order” and a “direct, proper and explicit invocation” of executive privilege.
He also said he had no access to communications from his official government account, and objected to the document requests, which he described as “vague.” (He also mistakenly referred to Mr. Clyburn as “Mr. Rayburn” — a likely reference to the Rayburn House Office Building, where the committee’s offices are.)
Mr. Navarro had broad influence over the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, advising the former president on supply chain issues and how to keep the economy open. He often pushed unproven treatments, including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, and he was a staunch and vocal critic of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, whom he described in a USA Today opinion piece last year as being “wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”
But Mr. Navarro was also prescient about the pandemic, and more forward-thinking than some of his White House colleagues. In late January 2020 — nearly two months before Mr. Trump declared a national emergency — he starkly warned Trump administration officials that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.
Earlier this year, the panel released emails and other documents showing that Mr. Navarro also sounded an early alarm about supply shortages, and it said a preliminary investigation had found that Mr. Navarro steered coronavirus-related contracts to politically connected companies. In a memo to Mr. Trump dated March 1, 2020, Mr. Navarro complained that he had been pushing the White House to move quickly, “in Trump time,” but said “movement has been slow.”
In a statement to Politico at the time the subpoena was issued, Mr. Navarro called the investigation “a witch hunt” and said he planned to deliver a copy of his new book, “In Trump Time,” which would explain the White House’s decision making. Mr. Clyburn cited the book in his letter, saying Mr. Navarro’s disclosures of “multiple conversations” with the former president and “numerous meetings” with other Trump White House officials effectively waived any claim of privilege.
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