A former Trump White House official says he and right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon were actually behind the last-ditch coordinated effort by rogue Republicans in Congress to halt certification of the 2020 election results and keep President Donald Trump in power earlier this year, in a plan dubbed the “Green Bay Sweep.”
In his recently published memoir, Peter Navarro, then-President Donald Trump’s trade adviser, details how he stayed in close contact with Bannon as they put the Green Bay Sweep in motion with help from members of Congress loyal to the cause.
But in an interview last week with The Daily Beast, Navarro shed additional light on his role in the operation and their coordination with politicians like Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“We spent a lot of time lining up over 100 congressmen, including some senators. It started out perfectly. At 1 p.m., Gosar and Cruz did exactly what was expected of them,” Navarro told The Daily Beast. “It was a perfect plan. And it all predicated on peace and calm on Capitol Hill. We didn’t even need any protestors, because we had over 100 congressmen committed to it.”
That commitment appeared as Congress was certifying the 2020 Electoral College votes reflecting that Joe Biden beat Trump. Sen. Cruz signed off on Gosar’s official objection to counting Arizona’s electoral ballots, an effort that was supported by dozens of other Trump loyalists.
Staffers for Cruz and Gosar did not respond to requests for comment. There’s no public indication whether the Jan. 6 Committee has sought testimony or documents from Sen. Cruz or Rep. Gosar. But the committee has only recently begun to seek evidence from fellow members of Congress who were involved in the general effort to keep Trump in the White House, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA).
This last-minute maneuvering never had any chance of actually decertifying the election results on its own, a point that Navarro quickly acknowledges. But their hope was to run the clock as long as possible to increase public pressure on then-Vice President Mike Pence to send the electoral votes back to six contested states, where Republican-led legislatures could try to overturn the results. And in their mind, ramping up pressure on Pence would require media coverage. While most respected news organizations refused to regurgitate unproven conspiracy theories about widespread election fraud, this plan hoped to force journalists to cover the allegations by creating a historic delay to the certification process.
“The Green Bay Sweep was very well thought out. It was designed to get us 24 hours of televised hearings,” he said. “But we thought that we could bypass the corporate media by getting this stuff televised.”
Navarro’s part in this ploy was to provide the raw materials, he said in an interview on Thursday. That came in the form of a three-part White House report he put together during his final weeks in the Trump administration with volume titles like, “The Immaculate Deception” and “The Art of the Steal.”
“My role was to provide the receipts for the 100 congressmen or so who would make their cases… who could rely in part on the body of evidence I'd collected,” he told The Daily Beast. “To lay the legal predicate for the actions to be taken.” (Ultimately, states have not found any evidence of electoral fraud above the norm, which is exceedingly small.)
The next phase of the plan was up to Bannon, Navarro describes in his memoir, In Trump Time.
“Steve Bannon’s role was to figure out how to use this information—what he called ‘receipts’—to overturn the election result. That’s how Steve had come up with the Green Bay Sweep idea,” he wrote.
“The political and legal beauty of the strategy was this: by law, both the House of Representatives and the Senate must spend up to two hours of debate per state on each requested challenge. For the six battleground states, that would add up to as much as twenty-four hours of nationally televised hearings across the two chambers of Congress.”
His book also notes that Bannon was the first person he communicated with when he woke up at dawn on Jan. 6, writing, “I check my messages and am pleased to see Steve Bannon has us fully ready to implement our Green Bay Sweep on Capitol Hill. Call the play. Run the play.”
Navarro told The Daily Beast he felt fortunate that someone cancelled his scheduled appearance to speak to Trump supporters that morning at the Ellipse, a park south of the White House that would serve as a staging area before the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol building.
“It was better for me to spend that morning working on the Green Bay Sweep. Just checking to see that everything was in line, that congressmen were on board,” he said during the interview. “It was a pretty mellow morning for me. I was convinced everything was set in place.”
Later that day, Bannon made several references to the football-themed strategy on his daily podcast, War Room Pandemic.
"We are right on the cusp of victory,” Bannon said on the show. “It’s quite simple. Play’s been called. Mike Pence, run the play. Take the football. Take the handoff from the quarterback. You’ve got guards in front of you. You’ve got big, strong people in front of you. Just do your duty."
This idea was weeks in the making. Although Navarro told The Daily Beast he doesn’t remember when “Brother Bannon” came up with the plan, he said it started taking shape as Trump’s “Stop the Steal” legal challenges to election results in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin fizzled out. Courts wouldn’t side with Trump, thanks to what Navarro describes in his book as “the highly counterproductive antics” of Sydney Powell and her Kraken lawsuits. So instead, they came up with a never-before-seen scheme through the legislative branch.
Navarro starts off his book’s chapter about the strategy by mentioning how “Stephen K. Bannon, myself, and President Donald John Trump” were “the last three people on God’s good Earth who want to see violence erupt on Capitol Hill,” as it would disrupt their plans.
When asked if Trump himself was involved in the strategy, Navarro said, “I never spoke directly to him about it. But he was certainly on board with the strategy. Just listen to his speech that day. He’d been briefed on the law, and how Mike [Pence] had the authority to it.”
Indeed, Trump legal adviser John Eastman had penned a memo (first revealed by journalists Robert Costa and Bob Woodward in their book, Peril) outlining how Trump could stage a coup. And Trump clearly referenced the plan during his Jan. 6 speech, when he said, “I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so… all Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.”
When Pence certified the electoral votes instead, he became what Navarro’s book described as “the Brutus most responsible… for the final betrayal of President Trump.”
Although the bipartisan House committee investigating the violence on Jan. 6 has demanded testimony and records from dozens of Trump allies and rally organizers believed to be involved in the attack on the nation’s democracy, Navarro said he hasn’t heard from them yet. The committee did not respond to our questions about whether it intends to dig into Navarro’s activities.
And while he has text messages, phone calls, and memos that could show how closely an active White House official was involved in the effort to keep Trump in power, he says investigators won’t find anything that shows the Green Bay Sweep plan involved violence. Instead, Navarro said, the investigative committee would find that the mob’s attack on the U.S. Capitol building actually foiled their plans, because it incentivized Pence and other Republicans to follow through with certification.
“They don’t want any part of me. I exonerate Trump and Bannon,” he said.
The committee is, however, engaged in a bitter battle with Bannon. The former Trump White House chief strategist refused to show up for a deposition or turn over documents, and he’s now being prosecuted by the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress.
Navarro said he’s still surprised that people at the Trump rally turned violent, given the impression he got when he went to see them in person during an exercise run that morning.
“I’m telling you man, it was just so peaceful. I saw no anger. None. Zero,” he said.