WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has refused to comply with a subpoena for documents related to the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus, saying the former president ordered him not to, according to his response to a congressional request released on Saturday.
The subpoena was issued in November by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis as part of its probe of whether former Trump administration officials mishandled the federal response to the pandemic by interfering with its own health agency's work. Nearly 800,000 people have died in the United States from the pandemic.
Navarro, a Republican, also served as one of former President Donald Trump's pandemic response advisers and was responsible for procurement in the coronavirus response, among other things. Navarro said in a letter to the subcommittee he would not cooperate because Trump told him to "protect executive privilege."
"It is a direct order that I should not comply with the subpoena," Navarro said in a letter to the committee, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
Representative James Clyburn, a Democrat and chairman of the coronavirus crisis panel, said in a letter to Navarro that he had no valid basis for refusing to comply and that he had waived any privilege by writing about conversations with Trump on the coronavirus response.
The refusal is "particularly indefensible given that you disclosed many details about your work in the White House, including details of conversations with the former President about the pandemic response, in your recent book and related press tour," Clyburn said in the letter.
Navarro could not be immediately reached for a response to Clyburn's letter.
Clyburn said the subcommittee expects Navarro to produce all records and information in his possession and appear for a deposition on Dec. 15, as the subpoena requires.
Clyburn said when the subpoena was issued 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."
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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