New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican, on Tuesday alleged that President Biden improperly leaned on the Justice Department to bring charges for contempt of Congress against Peter Navarro, who was President Donald Trump’s White House trade adviser.
Navarro, 72, was arrested last week after he refused to cooperate with the House select committee that’s investigating last year’s Capitol riot. Such charges are rare and follow Biden’s remark last year that witnesses who flout the House panel should be prosecuted.
Stefanik was asked about the case on a press call focused mostly on slamming the Democrat-led committee, which will hold a primetime hearing Thursday in an attempt to revive public interest in the mob violence committed by Trump supporters, who disrupted certification of Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
“Peter Navarro talks about how he was put in leg irons, handcuffs, strip searched, not given any food or water and put in solitary confinement,” a journalist told Stefanik. “I’m wondering what your reaction [is] or perhaps what you would compare the treatment of Peter Navarro to. And does the House plan to take any particular action on this whether it would be a hearing or an inquiry?”
Stefanik, a 37-year-old Harvard graduate, replied, “Well, I’m very concerned that Joe Biden is using his Department of Justice as a political arm attacking his political opponents.”
The House Republican Conference chairwoman offered no additional commentary.
The White House and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to The Post’s requests for comment.
The Justice Department announced the indictment Friday morning, three days after Navarro sued the committee in a bid to quash a subpoena. He is the second Trump ally to be charged with contempt in connection with the congressional investigation into the events of Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump’s former White House strategist Steve Bannon was indicted in November by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress after he refused to testify before the committee — the first such prosecution since 1983. Bannon was not a White House employee at the time of the riot.
Biden frequently says he wants to respect the independence of the Justice Department, but he also called for the prosecution of people who refuse to testify to the Capitol riot committee one week after Bannon refused to appear before the panel.
“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally,” Biden said on Oct. 15. When a reporter asked in a followup question, “Should they be prosecuted by the Justice Department?” Biden said, “I do, yes.”
Biden later apologized, saying during an Oct. 21 CNN town hall, “The way I said it was not appropriate… I should have chosen my words more wisely.”
The Justice Department decided not to prosecute two other Trump aides — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and communications aide Dan Scavino — who resisted cooperation with the committee, according to reports.
In Navarro’s case, it was unclear if Trump directly attempted to assert executive privilege over relevant records or information. Navarro argued, however, that Biden could not set aside Trump’s right to confidential communications with advisers.
Many other Trump aides cooperated with the committee — with some saying they found the process to be less exciting and probing than news coverage might suggest.