Trump econ crank Peter Navarro’s plan to defend himself pro se against contempt of congress charges was never really on the rails. But just a week after his arrest, the unfortunate vehicle has left the tracks and plummeted all the way to the bottom of Crazytown Ravine.
Navarro left the courthouse and launched himself into a scrum of microphones to claim that he’d been deprived of food and water, placed in leg irons, and denied the right to counsel. He went on to repeat the allegations to an array of sympathetic media outlets, including Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who wondered if it was even legal to arrest a guy who never sold fentanyl and does yoga.
Prosecutors responded with a request for a gag order on the theory that they want to hand over grand jury materials to this guy, and he’s likely to put them on Fox without a specific instruction not to. Competent counsel would likely counter that Navarro has a First Amendment right to go on TV and say that Merrick Garland is worse than Stalin, but again, he has no counsel — competent or otherwise.
So instead he fired off an email to US District Judge Mehta’s courtroom deputy demanding that the government cease filing motions for 45 days to allow him time to get a lawyer, repeating the allegation that he’d been denied counsel.
“I remind the court here that upon my arrest, the FBI agent in charge refused to allow me to contact an attorney for legal advice prior to appearing before the magistrate despite repeated requests and then tried to cover his tracks by providing a public defender a mere three minutes before the hearing was scheduled to begin,” he wrote. “This put me at a very severe disadvantage at the outset.”
Turns out … not so much. Yeah, don’t faint.
Prosecutors responded with a motion opposing Navarro’s request for a continuance and attaching the form 302 from the two FBI agents who picked up Navarro at Reagan National Airport last week. According to their June 3 report, Navarro did demand to make a call — but not to a lawyer. Rather, he wanted to call a television producer to say that he was going to be unavailable, and the agents refused, after which he called them “kind Nazis” and demanded to know how they could live with themselves.
As for his contention that he was deprived of food and water, the record reflects that agents supplied him with bottled water and snacks from the vending machine, and even offered to get him more, but he declined.
At his initial appearance before US Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui, Navarro repeated his intention to go pro se because “I don’t want to spend my retirement savings on lawyers.” He did ask for a delay of the speedy trial requirement, though, to allow him to prosecute his civil case against Nancy Pelosi and the January 6 Committee, in which he is also acting without counsel.
Which Judge Faruqui warned is not really a thing — “[T]ypically criminal cases do proceed ahead of civil cases.” — before advising him that he’d he had two weeks before his arraignment to get a lawyer.
“Just understand, Mr. Navarro, when the 14 days is up and you meet Judge Mehta, essentially, I think that at some point the Court will start to be less patient with you taking the time to find counsel,” the court cautioned.
Spoiler Alert: He did not understand.
Yesterday, Navarro fired off another email to Judge Mehta’s deputy saying, “Please be advised I am drafting a response to the request for a protective order and ask the court to await that until any ruling. I should have it be [sic] cob tomorrow.”
At which point, Judge Mehta lost his patience, releasing a pointed minute order instructing Navarro to cut out the ex parte communications ASAP:
In the last two days, Defendant has twice communicated with the court by emailing the courtroom deputy, without copying government counsel. This is not proper. Defendant is not permitted to have ex parte communications with the court — that is, communications outside the presence of government counsel — absent the court’s consent. If Defendant wishes to communicate with the court, he shall do so through a written filing submitted through the clerk’s office. Alternatively, he can seek permission to obtain filing privileges for the court’s online filing system. Securing such privileges will require Defendant to follow Local Criminal Rule 49(b)(2). The District Court’s Local Rules are available on its website. The court assumes that Defendant was unaware of the prohibition on ex parte communications and trusts that they will cease going forward.
So, this is all going GREAT. And we can’t help but notice that, while Navarro is complaining that he can’t afford to pay a lawyer because he’d have to liquidate his retirement and spend his golden years “eating dog food,” the Trump campaign has netted hundred of millions of dollars by telling supporters he needs money to fight lawsuits. And the RNC is currently footing the bill for Trump to fend off the New York Attorney General’s investigation into Trump’s business practices before he even became president.
Lie down with dogs, etc.
US v. Navarro [Docket via Court Listener]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.