Meet Garrett Ziegler: Today's top January 6th witness and key player in Donald Trump's election scheme

Meet Garrett Ziegler: Today's top January 6th witness and key player in Donald Trump's election scheme
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead.

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Garrett Ziegler, a former aide to Trade Advisor Peter Navarro who acted as a key conduit between the Trump White House and the sprawling network of lawyers and conspiracy mongers promoting dubious election fraud theories in the final months of 2020, is expected to speak to the January 6th Committee on Tuesday morning.

Ziegler announced his interview in a message to his followers on Telegram at the stroke of midnight on Monday, writing, “Yours truly going before the scam committee on Tuesday morning. Such a joke, but don’t worry — I’ll do nothing but tell the truth: Trump did nothing wrong & the election was stolen!”

Fanatically loyal to Trump, Ziegler played a crucial role in facilitating an infamous late-night meeting in the Oval Office on Dec. 18, 2020 by using his access pass to usher lawyer Sidney Powell, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn and former CEO Patrick Byrne into the White House, where they proposed a plan to have the president invoke the Insurrection Act while ordering the National Guard to seize voting machines and re-run the election in states narrowly lost to Joe Biden.

The meeting, which ran for four and a half hours, devolved into a screaming match between the Powell camp and White House lawyers led by Chief Counsel Pat Cipollone, with the two sides nearly coming to blows. At the end, Trump reportedly appointed Powell to the ill-defined position of special counsel, although nothing seems to have come of the action. Byrne, who reportedly spoke to the January 6th Committee on July 15, recently told the far-right outlet Epoch Times that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, told him he persuaded the president to reverse course by telling him that if they went forward with the plan “we’d all be in prison.”

Less than two hours after the raucous meeting broke up, Trump tweeted a call for his supporters to descend on Washington, DC on Jan. 6. Trump’s tweet included a link to the Navarro Report, which was prepared with Ziegler’s assistance. The president wrote, “Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump. A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Byrne’s preexisting relationships with Ziegler and another White House staffer, Patrick Weaver, allowed Powell and Flynn to circumvent Meadows as a gatekeeper to the Trump White House.

“I was the one who pulled together kind of this plan without really even letting Sidney or General Flynn know what might be at the end of it,” Byrne said at a press conference in February. “I’d gotten to know some staffers who had always been inviting — ‘Oh, you gotta come over to the White House sometime and let us give you a tour.’” Byrne said he called one of the aides — it's not clear whether it was Ziegler or Weaver — around 6:15 p.m. to arrange the visit.

Ziegler described the visit in a June 2021 interview with David K. Clements, a former New Mexico State University professor who has traveled around the country promoting the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Ziegler told Clements that he used his visitors pass to get Byrne, Powell and Flynn into the White House, but that Weaver was the one who actually let them into the building. Once Meadows and Cipollone discovered that it was his pass that had been used to get the trio into the White House, Ziegler said, his visitors' privileges were taken away.

It is not clear how Byrne initially met Ziegler and Weaver, but by the time of the Dec. 18 meeting, Ziegler for one had been enmeshed in a frantic hive of effort to overturn the election with Byrne near the center as a financial sponsor.

From Nov. 15 to Jan. 12, Ziegler told Clements, he and three other aides, including Joanna Miller, helped Navarro assemble the three-volume report, adding that he often spent six hours a day beyond his formal duties in the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy working on the election effort.

Ziegler made frequent trips across the Potomac River to the Westin Arlington Gateway during the period he was helping Navarro gather information for the report. Shortly after the election, Michael Trimarco, a New York City businessman and Giuliani associate, had rented a bloc of hotel rooms at the Westin, where he provided Powell with workspace, he told far-right podcaster Ann Vandersteel in an interview earlier this year. In mid-November 2020, Powell and Flynn relocated to Tomotley, the estate owned by attorney Lin Wood, to continue to work on lawsuits to challenge the election outcome in states that Trump had narrowly lost.

“We kept those same rooms, or I kept them, and had the team that didn’t go down there continue to work on election integrity, and they largely were working with Garrett Ziegler,” Trimarco told Vandersteel.

Among those pushing election-fraud conspiracy theories, some of which made it into the lawsuits, who variously described themselves as whistleblowers, journalists and analysts, were Terpsehore “Tore” Maras, Millie Weaver, Gavin Wince and Patrick Bergy.

Trimarco mentioned a handful of key figures, including former White House strategist Steve Bannon, as working in tandem in an interview earlier this year with Maras.

“I gotta say, the level-headedness of looking at this stuff, you know, by yourself, Patrick, Steve Bannon and Rudy was what really kept us on track,” Trimarco told Maras. “Because the funnel — the mouth of the funnel was huge. There was information coming in so fast and furious that it was impossible with the team we had to really vet through it all.”

Trimarco described a campaign running parallel to the lawsuits filed by Powell and Giuliani, which were all ultimately dismissed, to build pressure on lawmakers to set aside Biden electoral votes in the six battleground states, culminating on Jan. 6.

“When I was saying it to you and Millie back then, you were like, ‘Yeah, but it’s already under control,’” Trimarco recalled in his conversation with Maras. “And actually when I would say it to Steve, too, he would be like, ‘Look those guys aren’t going to do anything. These are a relic of the past elections. They’re just spineless and they’re not going to do much, if anything. But maybe if we kick it right to them, they have to make a decision because constituency politics will overwhelm them and they’ll maybe pay attention to the evidence that will have been presented on January 6th for the two hours of debate in each of these' — which was it — six states.”

A large portion of the information in the Navarro Report “came from this group of analysts that were working out of the Westin that did not go to Tomotley,” Trimarco told Vandersteel. “Garrett was key. I mean, this guy — talk about people really working 24-7. He would come around at 11, midnight, 1, after he’s clearly done at the White House, to get information. I saw him come by one or two times. But he was working with a few key people on our team to get the information.”

Trimarco has described himself as the designated point person for relaying information between Powell’s team and Giuliani. While the Trump campaign, represented by Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, formally cut ties with Powell, in reality the two legal teams continued to coordinate. While Trimarco was vetting information for Giuliani, Byrne — associated more closely with Powell and Flynn — was regularly flying Trimarco back and forth between DC and Long Island so he could see his wife, who was pregnant. Meanwhile, Byrne has confirmed to Raw Story that he was paying for the hotel rooms at the Westin where Maras, Weaver, Wince and Bergy were staying.

With Trimarco preoccupied with his wife’s pregnancy and limited in his ability to fulfill his courier function, he said information from the researchers ensconced at the Westin often reached Trump before Giuliani knew about it.

“Ironically, a lot of the stuff that got back to Rudy didn’t end up coming through me,” Trimarco said. “Because once that connection was made, Garrett would give it to Peter, and Peter would give it to the president. And then it would circle back to Rudy.”

Ziegler noted in a Telegram post that the Navarro Report was heavily sourced “with hundreds of footnotes and affidavits,” and he boasted: “I still think I’m the only person in the USA with all the unredacted affidavits ha.”

In one instance, information gleaned from affidavits collected for the lawsuits was reportedly used in a report drafted by Ziegler’s White House colleague Joanna Miller, which was then forwarded to Giuliani for the purpose of pressuring state legislatures to reverse Biden’s win.

Entitled “Dominion Voting Systems: OVERVIEW 12/2/20 – History, Executives, Vote Manipulation Ability and Design, Foreign Ties,” the report drew on an anonymous declaration by a man described as “a former high-ranking Venezuelan military officer.” The affidavit was used in four lawsuits filed by Powell around the same time — between Nov. 25 and Dec. 2 — seeking to overturn election results in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona. Citing the affidavit, the report suggested that election software used in the 2020 US election was tied to vote-rigging in Venezuela.

In a defamation suit brought in November 2021, the election software company Smartmatic argued that Powell should have known the declarant wasn’t reliable because he claimed to have been present during discussions around February 2009 in which the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez “offered to pay Smartmatic to create or modify its voting system to rig elections,” and then to claim that he “closely observed” the same system rig votes three years earlier — a feat that “is clearly impossible absent the invention of time travel.”

The publicly available version of the Dominion report, which was first published in early December 2020 by the conservative outlet Gateway Pundit, named Katherine Friess, a volunteer on the Trump election legal team, as the author. The Guardian reported that the original version of the document named Miller as the author, but that her name was removed before it was sent to Giuliani on Nov. 29.

It is unclear whether Ziegler was directly involved in the production of the report, and he did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

One of Ziegler's claims directly reached the president, and was cited by Trump in his effort to enlist White House counsel in his campaign to cling to power.

“The young and earnest Garrett Ziegler rides to the sound of the guns in Nevada,” Navarro wrote in his book In Trump Time: A Journal of America’s Plague Year, recounting how Ziegler researched allegations of voter fraud immediately after the election. “He will soon find himself crisscrossing an Indian reservation investigating outrageously illegitimate bribes for Biden votes.”

As previously reported by Raw Story, although some election advocates such as Nevada Native Vote did offer free food, gift cards and raffle entries to voters, the giveaways were available to all voters, and not tied to support for any specific candidate.

“Then he went off on double voting,” former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue’s testified during a June 13 hearing of the January 6th Committee, as he recounted a meeting with President Trump. “‘Dead people are voting. Indians are getting paid to vote.’ He meant people on Native American reservations. He said, ‘There’s lots of fraud going on here.’ I told him flat-out that much of the information he’s getting is false and/or just not supported by the evidence. We look at the allegations, but they don’t pan out.”

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