Thompson & Cheney Remarks on Resolution Citing Daniel Scavino, Jr. and Peter Navarro in Contempt of Congress

Apr 6, 2022

- As Delivered -

Washington—Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) this afternoon delivered the following statements in the House of Representatives before the House voted on a resolution citing Daniel Scavino, Jr. and Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress:

Chairman Thompson: Mr. Speaker, I want to start our debate by talking a little bit about what the American people ought to expect of their leaders, of those who hold positions of public trust, the responsibilities that come with it.

“I’ve been thinking about those responsibilities for more than 50 years, in all the time I’ve been fortunate enough to hold a position of public trust.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an alderman, a mayor, a member of Congress, President of the United States, or a staff member working as a civil servant or a political appointee. When you work for the public, when the people’s taxes pay your salary, these jobs come with serious rules and serious obligations.

“Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro both held positions of public trust. Mr. Scavino was a top communications official in the Trump White House. Mr. Navarro was a trade advisor. They each drew salaries paid by the American people, to the tune of over $180,000 per year. They both were to abide by certain rules and obligations. They both swore oaths of allegiance to the Constitution.

“The Select Committee wants to talk to them, but about a lot more than their White House jobs. We want to talk to them about their roles in trying to overturn the 2020 election. We subpoenaed them for their records and testimony.

“They told us to buzz off. Not a single record. No-shows for their deposition.

“Their excuse was: as former White House employees, the information we wanted—again, information about overturning an election—was shielded by executive privilege—a protection for the President to make sure sensitive, official conversations stay private.

“In other words: they’re arguing that their roles in trying to overturn an election had to stay secret because they had official roles as advisors to ex-President.

“If they want to make those claims—ridiculous as they sound—here’s what the law requires: they need to show up and make those claims on the record. Under oath. They refused to do that. That alone means they’re in contempt of Congress.

“But I want to dig a little deeper into the argument these men are making.

“As I mentioned before, these are rules and obligations that bind public servants. One of the most important rules is that you can’t do campaign work on government time or using taxpayer’s money. Pretty straightforward. Plenty you can do on your own time, but not when you’re on the clock. That’s the law.

“If you’ve heard of the Hatch Act, it’s probably been when a cabinet secretary or White House official has crossed the line from their official duties into political matters. In fact, in 2020, Mr. Navarro was dinged by a government watchdog for violating the Hatch Act by using official role to attack President Joe Biden.

“That law prohibits, among other things, someone from using, and I’m quoting, ‘official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the results of an election.’

“Sounds familiar. And in the cases of Mr. Navarro and Mr. Scavino, trying to affect the results of an election wasn’t knocking on doors or putting signs in people’s front yard. They were trying to help a defeated President stay in power. It’s not conceivable that their involvement in that effort could have legally overlapped with their official duties.

“But beyond that, it was a betrayal of the oath these men took. It was a betrayal of the public trust. Even if you do it on your own time, trying to overturn an election is still trying to overturn an election.

“And when we know that people who stormed this building on January 6th had the same goal—trying to overturn an election. That’s what the Select Committee is investigating. That’s why we need to hear from Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarrro.

“But as the Select Committee works to provide answers to American people, these two are saying, ‘I worked at the White House when all this took place. Even if I was plotting to overturn the government, I was collecting a government salary at the time, so I don’t have to talk about it.’

“Can you imagine?

“I’ve served my community and my country most of my life. Like my colleagues in this body, I’ve labored to uphold my oath and do right by the people I serve. I know my constituents expect that of me.

“To run into this kind of obstruction, this kind of cynical behavior, as we investigate a violent insurrection—is just despicable. It can’t stand.

“Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro must be held accountable for their abuses of the public trust. They must be held accountable for their defiance of the law. They are in contempt of Congress—which is a crime—and I call on all my colleagues to do their duty, to defend this institution and the rule of law, and to vote yes on this resolution.

“Mr. Speaker I reserve the balance of my time.”

* * *

Vice Chair Cheney: “Mr. Speaker, the Select Committee has now conducted over 800 interviews and depositions of witnesses who have knowledge of the events of January 6th. This includes more than a dozen former Trump White House staff members.

“So Mr. Speaker, when you hear my colleagues make political, partisan attacks on the Select Committee, I hope that all of us can remember some basic facts.

“Through these interviews, we have learned that President Trump and his team were warned, in advance and repeatedly, that the efforts they undertook to overturn the 2020 election would violate the law and our Constitution.

“They were warned that January 6th could and likely would turn violent.

“And they were told repeatedly by our state and federal courts, by our Justice Department, and by agencies of our Intelligence Community, that the allegations of widespread fraud sufficient to overturn an election were false and were unsupported by the evidence.

“And yet despite all of these specific warnings, President Trump and his team moved willfully, through multiple means, to attempt to halt the peaceful transfer of power, to halt the constitutional process for counting votes, and to shatter the constitutional bedrock of our great nation. As a federal judge has recently concluded: the illegality of President Trump’s plan for January 6th was ‘obvious.’

“We’re here today to address two specific witnesses who have refused to appear for testimony before the Committee. The Committee has many questions for Mr. Scavino about his political social media work for President Trump, including his interactions with an online forum called ‘The’ and with QAnon, a bizarre and dangerous cult.

“Mr. Scavino worked directly with President Trump to spread President Trump's false message that the election was stolen and to recruit Americans to come to Washington on January 6th to ‘take back their country.’

“This effort to deceive was widely effective and widely destructive, and Donald Trump's stolen election campaign succeeded in provoking the violence on January 6th. On this point, there is no doubt. The Committee has videos, interviews, and sworn statements from violent rioters demonstrating these facts.

“Mr. Navarro will also be a key witness. He has written a book boasting about his role in planning and coordinating the activity of January 6th. We have many questions for Mr. Navarro, including about his communications with Roger Stone and Steve Bannon regarding the planning for January 6th.

“And as Judge Carter recently concluded: ‘Based on the evidence, the court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.’

“In the case of both of these witnesses, Mr. Speaker, the Committee would rather have their testimony than have to move this contempt citation.

“When you hear my colleagues attack the Select Committee, remember Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro have chosen not to appear. They did not have to make this choice, but they did.

“In America, no one is above the law. Neither Mr. Trump, nor Mr. Scavino, nor Mr. Navarro is some form of royalty. There is no such thing in America as the ‘privileges of the Crown.’ Every citizen has a duty to comply with a subpoena.

“And Mr. Speaker, when you hear my colleagues challenge the Committee's legislative purpose, remember, the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States have affirmed our legislative purpose.

“Too many Republicans are, once again, ignoring the rulings of the courts, as many of them did in the run-up to January 6th. Mr. Speaker, the tale of what happened following the 2020 election resulting in the violence of January 6th is a tale of stunning deceit. It is a tale of lies about our election and contempt for the rulings of our courts.

“The election claims made by Donald Trump were so frivolous and so unfounded that the president's lead lawyer did not just lose these cases, he lost his license to practice law.

“The New York Supreme Court found, ‘There is uncontroverted evidence that Mr. Giuliani communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers, and the public at-large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump's failed effort at re-election in 2020.’

“Mr. Speaker, those in this chamber who continue to embrace the former president and his dangerous and destructive lies, ought to take a good hard look at themselves. At a moment of real danger to our Republic, when the need for fidelity to our Constitution is paramount, they have abandoned their oaths in order to perform for Donald Trump. That will be their legacy.

“Madam Chair, this is not a close call. Mr. Navarro and Mr. Scavino have chosen not to comply with a congressional subpoena. They are in contempt.

“I urge my colleagues to vote ‘yes’ on this resolution, and I reserve the balance of my time.”

# # #