Federal Judge Questions Justice Department’s Public Arrest of Peter Navarro

The federal judge in charge of former Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s contempt of Congress case is questioning the harsh methods used by the Justice Department to arrest him.

In June, Navarro was arrested by FBI agents on two misdemeanor contempt of Congress charges, after the former White House official refused to comply with a subpoena issued by the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.

According to Navarro, the agents who made the arrest placed him in handcuffs and leg irons, strip-searched him, denied him food and water and refused him the opportunity to call his lawyer. At the time, Justice Department officials called Navarro’s allegations false.

On Friday, however, the federal judge overseeing his trial indicated that Navarro’s claims had some merit, calling the FBI’s arrest unreasonably harsh and questioning the intent behind it.

“It is curious … at a minimum why the government treated Mr. Navarro’s arrest in the way it did. It is a federal crime, but it is not a violent crime,” said US District Court Judge Amit Mehta. “It is a surprise to me that self-surrender was not offered.”

In a statement, John Irving, an attorney for Navarro and former federal prosecutor, echoed the judge’s concerns about the arrest tactics used by the FBI. Irving said agents’ ridiculous strong-arm methods amounted to nothing more than a “public spectacle.”

“Why would you put a 72-year-old man with no criminal record in leg irons in a public arrest at an airport over a misdemeanor offense, especially when he literally lives across the street from the FBI headquarters building and had been in contact with an FBI agent two days earlier to be cooperative?” Irving asked.

“This is obviously the kind of case where a defendant would be allowed to voluntarily surrender in court, rather than being the object of a public spectacle,” he continued.

John Rowley, another attorney for Navarro, suggested that prosecutors’ harshness towards the former Trump official may have stemmed from a sense of personal hostility. Rowley also maintained that the charges against his client were unprecedented and went against decades of legal history protecting White House officials.