The contempt of Congress prosecution of former Trump administration official Peter Navarro initiated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s January 6 Committee came under some scrutiny by the federal judge handling the case on Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta questioned the decision of prosecutors to conduct a highly visible public arrest of Navarro rather than simply summon him to court on the misdemeanor charge.
Navarro was instrumental to the development of trade policy in the Trump administration and produced an unofficial report after the last presidential election questioning its “fairness and integrity.”
Legal experts around the nation have openly criticized the harsh tactics employed by Joe Biden’s Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland against those who have opposed the administration or questioned the conduct of the 2020 presidential election.
Navarro was arrested by FBI agents last month at Reagan National Airport outside of Washington as he was preparing to board a flight to make a media appearance in Nashville.
The contempt of Congress charge leading to his arrest stemmed from his refusal to comply with a subpoena served on him by Pelosi’s select committee.
Navarro told the media after his arrest that FBI agents strip-searched him, handcuffed him, and put him in leg irons before placing him in isolation. He also said he was denied the opportunity to call his attorney and was held without food or water.
The DOJ has denied Navarro’s claims.
During a hearing on Friday, Judge Mehta indicated that he felt the FBI had used unnecessary force to bring Navarro before the court on the misdemeanor charge. He said the circumstances around the arrest were “curious,” and that although he is charged with “a federal crime, it is not a violent crime.”
While he did not demand that prosecuting attorneys explain the reason for the arrest, he said that it was a “surprise that self-surrender was not offered.”
Navarro attorney John Irving issued a media statement asking why the government would “put a 72-year-old man with no criminal record in leg irons in a public arrest at an airport over a misdemeanor offense.” Irving also noted that Navarro “literally lives across the street” from the FBI headquarters in Washington. He also noted his client had communicated with a federal agent two days before his arrest ordeal in an effort to be cooperative.
Irving added that he believed the administration wanted to make his client “the object of a public spectacle.”