By Katelyn Polantz, CNN Reporter, Crime and Justice
Former Donald Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro wanted his first phone call after his arrest for contempt of Congress to be to a TV network, rather than an attorney, the Justice Department says.
“I’m supposed to be on live television tonight. I’d like to call the producer and tell him I’m not going to be there. Can I have my phone?” Navarro asked the FBI when he was taken into custody, according to a court filing from the Justice Department.
Prosecutors recounted Navarro’s first moves after his arrest on criminal contempt of Congress charges in a court filing Thursday because he complained to the federal judge overseeing his case that he didn’t have a lawyer yet, that prosecutors were moving too fast and investigators didn’t treat him fairly.
On Wednesday, Navarro had written to the court that the FBI “refused” to allow him to contact an attorney “despite repeated requests.”
The Justice Department says Navarro was not allowed to make that call to a TV network. But the FBI, in its filing, said that an agent asked him: “Do you have an attorney you’d like to call? What is the name of your attorney?” He was told he could make that type of call if he would give the agents an attorney’s name. Navarro didn’t give them one, according to the law enforcement memo documenting his arrest.
Navarro then called the agents who arrested him “kind Nazis,” and questioned, “How you could live with yourselves?” the memo said.
The Justice Department on Thursday said he still has time to find a lawyer before his next court appearance, and that he had previously asserted he wanted to represent himself.
He now says he is seeking an attorney, but has said the cost would be prohibitive. “This is going to cost a half a million dollars, from what I’m being told,” he said Wednesday on Fox. “I’ll be eating dog food if I stay out of jail.”
Treatment during arrest
The Justice Department also rebutted Navarro’s claims about neglectful treatment by law enforcement.
An FBI report recounting Navarro’s arrest claims law enforcement adjusted his handcuffs twice following his arrest on a jetway at Reagan National Airport near Washington, DC, last week, because they were uncomfortable. He also asked for and received additional leg room in the back seat of the FBI vehicle that transported him for fingerprinting, according to the bureau.
“The Defendant has made numerous false statements in the press about his arrest — for example, that he was deprived of food and water. In fact, when he asked, he was offered food and water, took it, then asked if he wanted more,” prosecutors also said on Thursday.
The FBI said that Navarro received chocolate, nuts and dried fruit.
Regarding whether the FBI properly observed his rights, Navarro says he was told he had the right to remain silent in a “casual and improvisational manner” and that he disagrees with how a public defender was available to him with little time to prepare beforehand at this first court appearance. (This is typical for much of public defenders’ work, and a first court appearance typically does not delve into a case’s substantive legal.)
As for the FBI’s retelling that Navarro wanted his first call to be to a TV producer, Navarro wrote that the agents “create the false impression that the only person the defendant wanted to call was a TV producer expecting the defendant to arrive for an interview in Nashville. Requesting a courtesy call to a TV producer that the defendant would not be available does not mean that the defendant did not ask repeatedly to call for legal advice yet that is the impression this report created for the media.”
Navarro appeared Thursday evening on Fox to discuss his case and defense that he won’t violate Trump’s executive privilege.
“I have told the committee and the FBI and the Justice Department repeatedly go talk to President Trump’s attorneys,” Navarro told Fox’s Jesse Watters. “If they waive that privilege, I will do what the President directs me to. But until that time, duty and honor and the Constitution require me to do what I have done, and all I got out of that was leg irons.”
Meanwhile, the judge overseeing Navarro’s case — District Judge Amit Mehta — has told Navarro that he cannot communicate with the court only by emailing the courtroom deputy without copying prosecutors. “This is not proper,” Mehta said in a court order. “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.”
“The court assumes that Defendant was unaware of the prohibition on ex parte communications and trusts that they will cease going forward,” the judge added.
Navarro copied sent his latest filing to prosecutors after Mehta’s order.
Navarro is set to have a court appearance next week.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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