Donald Trump directs former aide to defy House COVID probe into his administration's handling of the pandemic

By Alia Shoaib

Former President Donald Trump told a former aide to defy a House committee subpoena as they probe his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm telling Peter Navarro to protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments," Trump said in a statement on Saturday.

"The Communist Democrats are engaging in yet another Witch Hunt, this time going after my Administration's unprecedented and incredible coronavirus response, despite the fact that, sadly, more Americans have died this year from Covid than in all of 2020."

On Thursday, the congressional committee issued a subpoena for former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who was an influential member of the White House team responding to the virus.

As the pandemic unfolded, Peter Navarro advised Trump on supply shortages and helped negotiate purchases of medical supplies and drugs, Politico reported.

He also promoted COVID-19 policies not backed by science, including pushing hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure, and often sparred with top health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who he called "evil."

Trump's directive to Navarro is his latest attempt to stop his former aides from cooperating with congressional committees probes.

The former president has told several former aides and allies to ignore subpoenas from the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Following this advice has led his former advisor Steve Bannon to face criminal contempt charges.

Navarro's subpoena is the second issued by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis this year. In September, they issued one to Steven Hatfill, a virologist and former adviser to Navarro.

The committee on Thursday ordered Navarro to turn over documents and sit for a deposition after he failed to respond to their requests for months, a memo issued by Rep. James Clyburn said.

Clyburn said that Navarro was subpoenaed because of his "central role in the pandemic response, the importance of the Select Subcommittee's investigation, and his continued refusal to cooperate voluntarily."

He added that 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."

In response, Navarro called the investigation a "witch hunt" and said that he "will be delivering a case of my new book In Trump Time to the committee".

He also appeared to erroneously blame Anthony Fauci for the spread of the virus.