A federal judge on Friday delayed the contempt of Congress trial for former Donald Trump adviser Peter Navarro, likely for months, to allow for additional pre-trial debate over the role executive privilege could play when the case goes to a jury.
Over the course of a nearly two-hour hearing Friday, US District Judge Amit Mehta grilled Justice Department prosecutors on the position the department has taken, in previous internal Office of Legal Counsel opinions, that close aides to a president can be immune from congressional subpoenas.
The trial had been scheduled to begin on Monday.
Mehta had opened the door to the possibility that Navarro could present evidence at trial – potentially taking the stand – that he had been told by Trump that the former president was invoking executive privilege over his testimony to the House January 6 Committee.
So far, Navarro has presented no evidence that Trump made a such an invocation when he was subpoenaed for documents and testimony by the now defunct House January 6 select committee.
Federal prosecutors bristled at the idea that Navarro should still be allowed to present such evidence, arguing that it doesn’t exist in the first place and that if it did, it would not be up to the jury to decide whether such invocation would have shielded Navarro from the subpoenas.
Mehta ultimately decided that the issue raised legal questions that needed to be decided before trial, so he postponed its Monday start date.
The judge did not schedule a new date for the trial, and instead set a briefing schedule on the privilege questions that will extend through the end of March.
This story has been updated with additional details.