Clyburn Issues Subpoena to Trump White House Adviser Peter Navarro on Pandemic Response

Nov 18, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (November 18, 2021) Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, issued a subpoena to Peter Navarro, former Director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and an Assistant to President Trump.    

In a memo to Select Subcommittee Members explaining the reasons for issuing the subpoena, Chairman Clyburn wrote:

“As Director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and an Assistant to the President, Mr. Navarro was integrally involved in the prior Administration’s pandemic response including its procurement efforts.  Documents previously released by the Select Subcommittee show that rather than implement a coordinated national strategy to alleviate critical supply shortages, Mr. Navarro and other Trump Administration officials pushed responsibility to the states and pursued a haphazard and ineffective approach to procurement—contributing to severe shortages of critically needed supplies and putting American lives at risk.  White House officials, including Mr. Navarro, also appear to have sidelined career procurement officials and exercised inappropriate influence over contract awards, leading to the award of contracts without adequate diligence or competition.  As cases surged in the autumn of 2020, Mr. Navarro and other Trump Administration officials appear to have prioritized politics over the pandemic response—focusing their attention on the 2020 presidential election and promoting former President Trump’s Big Lie that the election results were fraudulent.”

The subpoena orders Mr. Navarro to appear for a deposition and produce documents related to his work on the Trump Administration’s pandemic response, after Mr. Navarro refused to cooperate with requests set forth in a September 14, 2021 letter.  Chairman Clyburn’s memo continued:

“Mr. Navarro has refused to voluntarily comply with the Select Subcommittee’s requests—ignoring repeated attempts to gain his voluntarily compliance and otherwise failing to communicate with Select Subcommittee staff. … Given his central role in the pandemic response, the importance of the Select Subcommittee’s investigation, and his continued refusal to cooperate voluntarily, this subpoena is necessary.”

The Select Subcommittee has been investigating the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic since 2020.  These investigations have uncovered extensive evidence that Trump Administration officials prioritized political concerns and took actions that undermined the nation’s ability to successfully respond to the pandemic in crucial early months.  As outlined in Chairman Clyburn’s memo, the Select Subcommittee has previously uncovered evidence showing that Mr. Navarro played a central role in these efforts, including:

  • Mr. Navarro Was Centrally Involved in the Trump Administration’s Haphazard and Ineffective Approach to Procurement
    • On March 30, 2021 and September 23, 2021, the Select Subcommittee released documents that shed light on the Trump Administration’s awareness of the impending crisis in the early weeks of the pandemic and failure to execute an effective strategy to contain the virus—including a dire warning that Mr. Navarro sent to President Trump on March 1, 2020, urging the Administration to take immediate steps to address the pandemic.  Rather than heed this warning and implement a coordinated national strategy to alleviate critical supply shortages, senior White House officials, including Mr. Navarro, abdicated responsibility to the states and pursued a haphazard and ineffective approach to procurement.  Among other things, the Select Subcommittee has found that Mr. Navarro’s adviser, Dr. Steven Hatfill, appears to have refused to pursue leads to purchase critically needed N95 masks in the spring of 2020 because the goods were not manufactured in the United States—a refusal that not only risked further exacerbating PPE shortages but that also put American lives at risk. 
       
  • Mr. Navarro May Have Exercised Inappropriate Influence over the Award of Lucrative Contracts
    • On March 30, 2021, the Select Subcommittee released evidence that raises questions about whether Trump White House officials, including Mr. Navarro, exercised inappropriate influence over contracts for PPE and medical supplies that should have been handled by career procurement staff—leading the previous Administration to award lucrative contracts without adequate diligence or competition.  These documents also raise questions about the Trump Administration’s use of unaccountable outside advisers, rather than career federal procurement and public health experts, to manage the federal government’s pandemic response. 
       
  • Mr. Navarro and Trump Administration Officials Neglected the Pandemic Response to Focus on the Election and Promote the Big Lie
    • On September 23, 2021, the Select Subcommittee released emails that raise questions about whether Mr. Navarro and other Trump White House officials working on the coronavirus may have allowed the pandemic response to take a “back-seat” to focus their efforts on the 2020 presidential election and to promote former President Trump’s Big Lie that the election results were fraudulent.  For instance, when asked by an academic colleague on January 5, 2021, why he was not “fixing the virus,” Dr. Hatfill admitted:  “Because the election thing got out of control.  I go where my team goes.”  Former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx confirmed during a transcribed interview with the Select Subcommittee that Trump White House officials “were actively campaigning and not as present in the White House as previously” in the fall of 2020, and that the narrow focus on campaigning “took people’s time away from and distracted them away from the pandemic.”

On September 14, 2021, Chairman Clyburn sent a letter requesting documents and information from Mr. Navarro by September 28, but Mr. Navarro has failed to comply. 

Chairman Clyburn’s memo outlined evidence indicating that Mr. Navarro possesses documents and communications relevant to the Select Subcommittee’s investigation that he has been purposefully withholding, including:

  • Mr. Navarro has stated publicly that he maintained a “daily journal” during his tenure at the White House, in which he “dictated what had happened that day,” including events related to the prior Administration’s response to the pandemic. 
  • Mr. Navarro exchanged more than 80 messages with White House personnel about official business relating to the pandemic through an encrypted ProtonMail account between February 2020 and January 2021.  This evidence, which was released by the Select Subcommittee on September 23, 2021, raises troubling questions about whether Mr. Navarro and other Trump Administration officials used personal accounts to intentionally shield official communications about the pandemic.

The subpoena compels Mr. Navarro to produce by December 8, 2021, all documents and communications in his possession related to his involvement in the pandemic response; documents sufficient to identify non-government accounts used for official business related to the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis; and documents sufficient to identify any steps Mr. Navarro took to timely comply with federal law relating to the preservation of Presidential records.  It also requires Mr. Navarro to appear at a deposition on December 15.

Click here to read Chairman Clyburn’s memorandum.

Click here to read the subpoena to former Director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and Assistant to President Trump, Peter Navarro.

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117th Congress