Young White House aide was go-between from Giuliani to Trump during coup campaign

Trump aide Garrett Ziegler was key conduit for Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn during post-election plot

Published April 12, 2022 5:45AM (EDT)

Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Raw Story


During the frantic period between the 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, a young White House aide named Garrett Ziegler served as a conduit of information from a network of teams led by lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell to President Trump, as the operatives generated unfounded and specious claims in an attempt to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election.

Ziegler has spoken openly about using his pass to let attorney Sidney Powell and former national security adviser Michael Flynn into the White House for a Dec. 18, 2020, meeting with Trump and contributing to a report authored by his boss, trade adviser Peter Navarro, that was used to undermine confidence in the election. But Raw Story has confirmed that Ziegler played a much more significant role than has been previously understood. Working directly with a team that reported to Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, Ziegler helped create a seamless information chain that was mobilized in the effort to overturn the election.

As previously reported, Ziegler let Powell and Flynn into the White House for an impromptu meeting with Trump, in which the trio reportedly urged the president to invoke the National Emergencies Act so that he could use the National Guard to seize ballots and appoint Powell as a special counsel to investigate the election. Patrick Byrne, the former CEO, has said that he contacted Ziegler to arrange the meeting. The visit caught chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone by surprise, according to Ziegler, and Ziegler's visitor access privileges were subsequently revoked.

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The following day, Trump tweeted a link to the report authored by Navarro produced in collaboration with Ziegler, while calling his supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6 for a "wild rally."

Ziegler also said he attempted to arrange a separate meeting between Powell and Trump, Raw Story has found.

"I walked Sidney over to the residence one night to try to get the president a binder full of evidence," Ziegler asserted in a YouTube interview after he had left the White House. Powell was blocked from meeting with the president, he said, contending that Trump's more cautious staff prevented the president from taking bolder action.

Ziegler disclosed on his Telegram channel last month that he received an invitation to speak with the staff and members of the House Jan. 6 Committee. The House cited Navarro, Ziegler's former boss, for criminal contempt for defying subpoenas from the select committee and referred him to the Department of Justice for prosecution on April 6.

While gathering information and drafting the Navarro report, Ziegler worked with a research team that reported to Giuliani, according to Giuliani associate Michael Trimarco. A Long Island businessman with a background in finance and tech, Trimarco told far-right conspiracy theorist Ann Vandersteel in a recent video that he had been helping Giuliani analyze the contents of Hunter Biden's laptop in October 2020, and then hastily switched over to researching alleged election fraud after the election.

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The Westin hotel in Arlington, Virginia, served as the initial hub for the teams collecting affidavits to support the legal challenges, Raw Story has found. Those teams promoted a fount of specious claims that would fuel the violent effort to prevent Congress from certifying the election. Byrne said in a video posted earlier this year that Trimarco "rented some rooms" for Powell "and a few other people" at the Westin. The video was removed from Byrne's channel on the alternative video streaming platform Rumble, but a copy was republished by the news site One News Page, crediting Rumble as the original source.

"All of this would have fallen apart on that side of the river had it not been for [Trimarco] showing up and not just with a credit card, but trying to provide some adult supervision," Byrne said. "He's a real champion, and the MAGA crowd should know that when push came to shove, this fellow came up out of nowhere and was very valuable in helping corral all these forces and keep things from just spinning apart in the early days."

In mid-November 2020, Powell, Flynn and Byrne decamped from the Westin to the Tomotley Plantation in South Carolina at the invitation of defamation attorney Lin Wood in mid-November. The team led by Powell and Flynn at Tomotley received widespread coverage. Less attention has been focused on a second team that stayed behind. Ziegler was a frequent presence at the Westin, which he dubbed the "cyber-patriots," Trimarco said.

The team at the Westin "did have access to Garrett at the White House, they did get tours, and they did work with Garrett extensively," Trimarco told Vandersteel. "I know he did — and he was working diligently with these folks to get as much information as quickly as we could into the right hands."

By Nov. 15, 2020, Ziegler and other aides started helping Peter Navarro compile reports meant to cast doubt on the outcome of the election. "Our job," he said, "was to get the first draft."

Following in the footsteps of his older cousin Ron Ziegler, onetime press secretary for President Richard Nixon, Garrett Ziegler landed an internship at the White House as a college student in 2017. He joined the staff of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy under Navarro two years later. Prior to the election, Ziegler said he worked on reports touting "the Trump economic record" in sectors like mining and manufacturing in swing states. Beginning around Nov. 15 — roughly the same time Powell moved her team from the Westin to the Tomotley Plantation — Ziegler said he and three other aides started helping Navarro compile reports casting doubt on the outcome of the election.

"We prepared — Peter gave direction," Ziegler told David Clements, a former New Mexico State University professor who has amassed a large following on Telegram among election deniers and anti-vaccine adherents. "He laid it out, what his vision was. And our job was to get the first draft."

In his account of his time working on the Giuliani election team at the Westin, Trimarco told Vandersteel he was impressed by Ziegler's energy and found him to be mature beyond his years.

"I mean, this guy — talk about people really working 24/7," Trimarco said. "He would come around at 11, midnight, 1, after he's 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."

In the tangled web of relationships among the operatives working to overturn the election at the Westin, Tomotley and across the country, Trimarco was responsible for making sure crucial information reached Giuliani.

"If you wanted to get information from Sidney's camp, at least at the very beginning, over to Rudy's, you'd come through me," Trimarco said. "That was the reason I was at a lot of these meetings — to get information over to Rudy, because he represented the president, for real. And we weren't physically in the same location."

While the "cyber-patriots" team was headquartered at the Westin, according to Trimarco, Giuliani has said he was working out of the Trump Hotel around the time of the election and then moved to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Shortly after Christmas, Giuliani said he moved to the Willard Hotel. Giuliani's statements about his whereabouts during the period he was challenging the election on Trump's behalf come from a deposition for a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems employee Eric Coomer.

Giuliani did not respond to multiple emails and voicemails to his lawyers seeking comment.

Ziegler was working so closely with the team at the Westin that information often reached Trump before it reached him, Trimarco said.

"Ironically, a lot of the stuff that got back to Rudy didn't end up coming through me," Trimarco told Vandersteel. "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 told Raw Story he would respond to questions for comment, but didn't send responses by press time.

Trimarco comes from a politically connected family in New York. His involvement in politics long predates the effort to overturn the 2020 election. During a New York state court trial to decide a complaint brought by Trimarco against his former business partners, witnesses testified that Trimarco took part in a meeting with then-Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., in 2002 to discuss a venture that would theoretically capture and store biometric data to properly identify passengers at Long Island's MacArthur Airport. Trimarco's former partners accused him of failing to talk about their business during the meeting and instead promoting a business owned by his family.

Trimarco claimed in his March interview with Vandersteel that "the feds are coming after me" related to a matter involving Cambridge Analytica — the British consulting firm that used Facebook data to micro-target voters to the advantage of the Trump campaign in 2016. He further asserted that Giuliani was representing him in the matter. It is unclear exactly what Trimarco's relationship to Cambridge Analytica is, but a Fast Company story linked Cambridge Analytica to members of the Ergen family, who own Dish Network, and court records indicate that Trimarco was involved in marketing and distribution work for Dish Network in 2010.

In 2018, Trimarco sued Dish Network scion Chase Ergen, and he was represented by a New York City lawyer named Howard Kleinhendler.

Trimarco told Vandersteel that he was analyzing the contents of Hunter Biden's laptop for Giuliani in October 2020. Kleinhendler allowed him to come by his law office to print out pages from the device. The effort to mine the laptop for information that could damage the Biden campaign pivoted to generating baseless election fraud theories once it became apparent Trump was going to lose.

"When everything went south after election night and Howard was on the phone with me right away — 'How can I help? Can I work on this? I want to help the cause,'" Trimarco recalled. The next day, Trimarco said Kleinhendler showed up at the Westin ready to go to work. Kleinhendler went on to file an election suit as Sidney Powell's co-counsel in Arizona, and currently represents Powell in defamation suits brought by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic.

Despite multiple attempts, Kleinhendler could not be reached for comment.

In his interview with Vandersteel, Trimarco recalled a meeting that took place at the Westin shortly after the election that included Kleinhendler and Powell. Two other men who attended the meeting — retired Army Col. Phil Waldron and Texas businessman Russell Ramsland — explained "their theories on how the system was hacked," Trimarco said.

Ziegler maintains that during his time in the White House he was outspoken in his advocacy for Trump to take bold action to prevent the transfer of power to Joe Biden.

In December 2020, Ziegler still held out hope that Trump would follow Navarro's advice and "quote-unquote cross the Rubicon. ... But he didn't do that."

"I was telling whoever would listen to me in the White House: 'Let's just go look at the ballots. We don't have to do it. Have the National Guard in Georgia do it,'" Ziegler told an interviewer, outlining a proposal similar to the one Powell, Flynn and Byrne pitched to Trump at the White House meeting.

In late December 2020, Ziegler said he was "still holding out hope that some of the advice my boss was giving [Trump] that we needed to do something about this would actually get done, that he would quote-unquote cross the Rubicon…. But he didn't do that."

By then, the ceaseless drumbeat of unfounded claims that the vote had been electronically altered by foreign powers had come to be accepted as truth by Trump's supporters. Outraged by what they considered treason by lawmakers, state officials and judges who thwarted the president's attempt to cling to power, they took matters into their own hands. On Jan. 6, 2021, the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and forced Congress to delay certification of the electoral vote. The vote was ultimately certified and Biden was confirmed as the next president.

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By Jordan Green

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