In Peter Navarro Sentencing, No Mention of Competing Claims about Official Acts

As you’ve no doubt heard Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Peter Navarro to four months in prison plus a $9,500 fine. Here’s Kyle Cheney’s account.

The punishment matched the sentence imposed — but stayed pending appeal — by Trump appointee Carl Nichols, but with a bigger fine.

At first, Navarro attorney Stan Woodward told Judge Mehta that Navarro would say nothing.

But then he did. He claimed, as a Harvard-educated gentleman, he was helpless to figure out what to do in response to a subpoena.

Navarro made a last-ditch appeal for leniency to Mehta, addressing the court even after his lawyers had initially said he wouldn’t. He said he grew confused about the thicket of precedents and rules around executive privilege and believed he didn’t have to comply with Congress’ subpoena.

“I’m a Harvard-educated gentleman, but the learning curve when they come at you with the biggest law firm in the world is very, very steep,” Navarro said.

Judge Mehta, a mere Georgetown/UVA grad, was having none of it. He noted that by the time Navarro defied the January 6 Committee, Steve Bannon had already been charged.

I’m just as interested in what wasn’t said at the sentencing. In spite of unsealing part of the communications pertaining to the Presidential Records Act lawsuit still pending against Navarro, which I wrote about here, I saw no mention of it in today’s hearing.

If I’m right that Navarro continues to withhold communications about the coup based on a claim they’re not protected by the Presidential Records Act, nothing would prevent Jack Smith from handing Navarro a subpoena. Indeed, Navarro’s testimony today would validate that Navarro now knows exactly how to respond to a subpoena — and that he doesn’t believe these are official records.

The big drama going forward is whether Judge Mehta lets Navarro stay out of jail pending appeal, as Judge Nichols did with Bannon.

But if Navarro were to defy another subpoena, it might be a way to get him jailed more quickly.

37 replies
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  2. freebird says:

    Navarro said he spent over $1 million to defy a lawful subpoena in defiance to our system of justice to stay out of jail for 4 months. He could have asserted his 5th amendment rights and then gotten immunity. The nation saw what Trump incited. What Navarro would have provided was just details or Trump did something so egregious that he couldn’t disclose it. Or, Navarro is a berserker off his rocker.

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  3. Peterr says:

    “If I’m right that Navarro continues to withhold communications about the coup based on a claim they’re not protected by the Presidential Records Act, nothing would prevent Jack Smith from handing Navarro a subpoena.”

    Recalling your big post the other day about how Abbe Lowell is juggling eight chessboards, it’s obvious that Smith is doing the same thing with his prosecutions. Something tells me he has been waiting for this trial to end (at least at the trial stage) before serving the subpoena of which you speak.

      • vigetnovus says:

        GJ subpoena incoming in 3…2…1…

        Also, how do we know he hasn’t ALREADY served a subpoena? And does Proton Mail present a unique 5th amendment issue… can he be forced to comply with a subpoena that could potentially incriminate him, since you can’t serve a warrant on Proton Mail servers (and even if you did, it’d be encrypted and take time to exploit)?

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Navarro has an MPA and a PhD from Harvard, the latter in the glory subject of economics, whose plethora of assumptions sometimes, but rarely honestly, deal with the natural and logical costs of human behavior. If that elite education did not help Mr. Navarro learn how to respond to a subpoena, could he not have asked, say, a lowly, Yale-educated lawyer to tell him?

    • Ebenezer Scrooge says:

      I think you’re accurately describing 1980’s economics, except that its practitioners were more ideologically blinkered than dishonest. Let me give you an example of how the blinkering works. Take the following assertion: there was not necessarily any shortage of food in Leningrad during its siege. If this assertion makes sense to you, you understand how microeconomics works. If you agree with this assertion, you are lost to reality, bedizened by the elegance of micro concepts.

      More modern microeconomics has gone empirical: i.e., to the left. It no longer ignores human behavior in the interest of theoretical elegance.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        There’s macro and micro, and I was thinking of the level of sophistication that makes it into the average college textbook.

        • Peterr says:

          If Navarro has a PhD in Economics, it should not be a stretch to assume that he knows more about the subject than the contents of the average college textbooks.

          And having gotten my BA in math and economics in the 1980s, I’d say there was a decent amount of political dishonesty in the air. Arthur Laffer, anyone? [Political dishonesty: “Here’s the result I want to show; now, how can I shoehorn a model to ‘prove’ it?”]

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            I was responding to scrooge’s comment that microeconomics, at least, had updated some of its flawed assumptions. Personally, I put American economics in the same basket as America’s extreme capitalism. Both are heavily politicized and often indistinguishable from its politics.

            Elite American economics education seems rigid. I suspect it would never have tolerated the brilliant Ha-Joon Chang, who found a warmer reception at Cambridge University. Bank regulator and lawyer-economist Bill Black, for example, was warned not to be too liberal in his approach, lest Michigan refuse to award him his PhD.

            • DrStuartC says:

              It’s hard to say, as a clinical psychologist, which basic assumptions economists make about human behavior is more flawed and absurd:

              1. That we always act in our own, best self interest.
              2. That our economic decisions are based on rational thinking.

          • Joseph Andrews says:

            Speaking of (some kind of) dishonesty…or something–

            from Peter Coy at Bloomberg


            Peter Navarro: “My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters.”


            …and how did Navarro make his initial connection with Trump?

            from Sarah Ellison at Vanity Fair


            At one point during the campaign, when Trump wanted to speak more substantively about China, he gave Kushner a summary of his views and then asked him to do some research. Kushner simply went on Amazon, where he was struck by the title of one book, Death by China, co-authored by Peter Navarro. He cold-called Navarro, a well-known trade-deficit hawk, who agreed to join the team as an economic adviser.

            My oh my.

            Of course, recall that Peter Navarro was the individual who, I think, brought Garrett Ziegler to the White House.

            Young Ziegler grew up less than hour from where I currently reside. Thanks to emptywheel I know quite a bit about my ‘neighbor’. I would like to know more.

            Ziegler got his start in politics interning with (fomer) US Congressman John Shimkus, the fellow who proclaimed, in Congress, that he is informed by the Bible (and Genesis) that global warming wasn’t for humans to worry about because God ‘will decide when the Earth ends’.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Navarro saw his job as finding the numbers to confirm Trump’s intuition, because “he’s always right” in these matters? A true courtier.

              But it’s not far off how other corporate and academic courtiers view their jobs. Just substitute CEO for Trump.

            • CoffaeBreak says:

              Holy s… A US Government Director of National Trade chosen because of a book title? Only the best people.

              I need a high falutin job. I’m gonna write a book called, “To Russia with Love” so I can get Mr. Trump’s attention.

    • RitaRita says:

      Navarro gets a subpoena from Congress and he isn’t smart enough to know that he should consult a lawyer? This doesn’t pass the smell test.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        Not really. Like all arrogant know-it-alls he thinks he is the smartest in the room and therefore can talk his way out of any jam. He is also trying to delay things in the hope of a pardon (which I doubt will happen even if Defendant-1 prevails, which I can’t really see without serious hinkiness).

        Since Rayne’s buying popcorn, anyone have any favorites?

    • Critter7 says:

      If any among us might want even more insight into Navarro’s thinking, his book “In Trump Time” provides that – unfortunately.

      His Daily Beast diatribe about “Green Bay Sweep” impressed me as probably having a few grains of truth to it, so I borrowed “in Trump Time” from the library hoping for a few more.

      In vain, as it turned out. Mr. Navarro’s narrative gave few hints, if any, of rational thought. His story of Trump’s White House is so infused with up-is-down “logic” and trashing of those who do not subscribe to his Master’s view of the universe that I found it unreadable.

      Mr. Navarro’s inability to figure out how to respond to a subpoena in a way that prevents a contempt conviction and likely jail time is not the only evidence of this man’s confused thinking.

      • Joseph Andrews says:

        Thanks for the Daily Beast link.

        I saw this live:

        It was great live TV. Trump attracts a certain kind of person, doesn’t he?

        For what it is worth, Melber has had several Navarro-type guys from Trump’s administration on his show…live.

        They all like the camera. On them. A lot.

  5. Operandi says:

    I wish Mehta had followed through on DoJ’s request to max out the fine, since Navarro was once again contemptuous in his dealings with the probation office.

    Given what Bannon got, I never expected Mehta to deviate much from this result. Still, I cannot imagine someone more contemptuous of Congress’s authority during a more important Congressional investigation than Navarro. If the book isn’t getting thrown at him, who is the book for?

    • timbozone says:

      Not only that but Navarro’s subpoena supposedly covered a period where he still worked for USG/WH. Bannon was not working for the White House as a paid government employee during that similar time period.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      Navarro will become another example of the First Law of Dirtballs. This time, it will be SC Smith coming for him and SC Smith doesn’t fiddlefart around.

      • FL Resister says:

        Looks like Peter Navarro and ex-wife Leslie LeBon’s divorce was final on Dec. 31, 2020, and filed that November. I wonder whether incessant whining from Navarro had anything to do with it. Or maybe it was his politics. Peter was a Democrat when she met him two decades earlier.
        Or maybe it was his obvious criminal behavior. Who knows.

        Here’s a decent background story on the subject.

        • Joseph Andrews says:

          1. Love your screenname FL Resister! Now your governor and his board of whatever have declared sociology class verboten at the state’s public U’s?! Can somebody (anybody?) explain what he learned while earning degrees at two Ivys?

          2. Thanks for the link. I wouldn’t wish divorce on anyone…but thanks for the link. I won’t be able to find it without a search, but I remember reading more than one Paul Krugman piece at about the time Navarro got his White House post…Krugman had nothing good to say about Navarro AT ALL…and as I recall his description of the man was uniquely negative.

          3. One of the reasons I keep coming back to emptywheel is the focus on fellows like William Barr…and his shenanigans. Imagine, Barr was among the more competent of those working for Trump toward the end of his presidency!

          …keep resisting. As a resident of the midwest USA, for decades now our family has vacationed in various parts of FL. I am beginning to think twice about spending our dollars there. In fact, we have visited CA and Hawaii within the past couple of years–what is happening in FL is really disconcerting to my family and I, in particular (newly-married) oldest daughter, who is thinking seriously about having children. She has informed us that were she to get pregnant, she will not set foot in FL.

          But for me, spring training and sportswriting in Jupiter FL is calling…(wink emoji).

  6. Greg Hunter says:

    Based on an email correspondence with Steven Pinker, I awarded myself a PhD from Harvard.

    I would posit that K-12 public education, supported and financed by the industrialists in the rust belt, churned out the best educated workforce on the planet; college be damned. That ethic and funding died under Reagan.

  7. xxbronxx says:

    58 years ago Ray Davies and the Kinks said it best about Doctor (“Address me as Doctor!”) Navarro –
    ‘Cause he’s oh, so good
    And he’s oh, so fine
    And he’s oh, so healthy
    In his body and his mind
    He’s a well respected man about town
    Doing the best things so conservatively

    • Eschscholzia says:

      Navarro is not so well-respected around this town. San Diego successfully voted against him in 5 different elections: for city council, mayor, county supervisor, 49th district House of Representatives, and city council again. The “positions” he ran on varied wildly from election to election. His current anti-immigration and anti-international trade agreements positions would not help him win an election now.

      Before that, his teaching at UCSD and USD (very different schools!) 1985-1988 appears to have been as a lecturer/postdoc.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        UCSD and USD are, indeed, different schools with very different cultures. UCSD is a large public university and part of the UC system. USD is a private, mid-sized, Catholic university.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          According to wiki, Navarro was only in SD three years, 1985-88. He spent the next 20 years at UC Irvine, and is still an emeritus prof. in economics there.

        • Eschscholzia says:

          I don’t know where Navarro lived either while lecturing at UCSD & USD or when running for office down here, as he was economics faculty at UC Irvine while running and I don’t think there are residency requirements for the offices he ran for. Back then Orange County and San Diego were slight variants of the same Republican-dominated politics, just before Pete Wilson (former San Diego mayor) transitioned from senator to governor, then killed the state Republican party for a couple of generations via prop 187.

          To expand on what earlofhuntington wrote: UCSD was and is where one goes in San Diego to really learn stuff, and to generate new knowledge. Back then it was rapidly growing into the 3rd large comprehensive UC campus with Berkeley & UCLA; division 3 athletics, no football team, no Greek system, no adjacent student community (La Jolla, so students couldn’t afford the rents) so primarily a commuter school whether live at home or rent far from campus. Research, top med school, Salk, Scripps, HHMI, etc. Virtually no courses taught by adjuncts (back then), and grad students only taught labs and discussion sections. If Navarro taught more than a one-time special topic course at UCSD that would have been odd; coming with a freshly minted PhD from Harvard would not particularly stand out or impress.

          San Diego State was the large solid Cal State across town: get the college student experience then get a job.

          USD was private Catholic 5-6K undergraduates (now 8K or so), small classes taught by faculty including adjuncts. Not a chance it would have anything named after Muir, Marshall, Warren, or (Eleanor) Roosevelt (colleges 2-5 at UCSD). It had the law & business schools in town, and to some extent USD alumni provide the connections in San Diego in those fields. Not a surprise that they would hire Navarro for a few years, potentially at a living wage. [If he were stringing together multiple adjunct positions to survive, USIU would have been the likely place for additional courses, not UCSD.]

  8. wa_rickf says:

    Rwingers are all about “personal responsibility” and “law & order” until it comes to their own criminal convictions. Then they run to the nearest appellate court to delay their comeuppance.

  9. Spencer Dawkins says:

    “I’m a Harvard-educated gentleman, but the learning curve when they come at you with the biggest law firm in the world is very, very steep,” Navarro said.

    IANAL, but I’m trying to imagine any lawyer watching his client say this to a judge without clapping a hand over the client’s mouth and at least trying to get the judge to consider an insanity defense.

    I don’t want to complain about verdicts, and especially about fines, but I can’t imagine any of Trump’s henchmen being deterred by a $9,500 fine.

    And I find myself being grateful that I earned my degrees in economics in the 1970s, before Laffer turned intellectual dishonesty into a profitable hobby for economists. When I talk to young people about economics today, I find myself saying that all the discipline REALLY needs, is to forget everything conservative economists have written in the past 45 years.

    • Knowatall says:

      Oh so true (especially the latter). I was seriously disciplined in 1984 (finishing MA in Econ) by criticizing “Reaganomics” as BS (the performative aspect of Republican politics being just honed at that point).

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