Navarro, an economist whom Donald Trump tapped to lead his trade war against China, didn’t stay in his lane at the White House. He’d already inserted himself in the administration’s botched pandemic response, pushing the unproven hypothesis that Covid-19 escaped from a Wuhan lab. And after the 2020 vote, Navarro began compiling a series of inflammatory dossiers on the outcome — with names like “The Immaculate Deception,” “The Art of the Steal,” and “Yes, Trump Won” — pushing the Big Lie that the election was stolen.
Navarro’s reports include debunked allegations of “outright voter fraud” across six battleground states, including “the large-scale manufacturing of fake ballots, bribery, and dead voters” as well as roundly discredited conspiracy theories alleging sordid connections between voting machine companies, a former Venezuelan dictator, the Clinton Foundation, and George Soros.
Unlike most amateur-hour election sleuths, however, Navarro had direct access to the aggrieved president. In an extended interview with Rolling Stone, Navarro revealed that he personally briefed Trump on his research in the Oval Office — and that Trump directed, on the spot, that Navarro’s findings be distributed to the entire GOP conference on Capitol Hill.
That advocacy by Trump helped Navarro, along with close ally Steve Bannon, prepare for a Jan. 6 plot they hoped could overturn Joe Biden’s victory. Together with Bannon, Navarro developed a plan to block the Electoral College vote count, called the Green Bay Sweep after a daring football play run by the NFL’s Packers in the Vince Lombardi era. (Bannon did not respond to a detailed list of questions about his involvement in this effort.)
The ploy called on sitting congressmen and senators, during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, to object to the counting of votes from six battleground states, where Navarro had decried fraud and electoral irregularities. Across both chambers, each state challenge would prompt four hours of debate. The intention was to create a 24-hour Republican propaganda blitz that could “punch through” directly to the public and give Mike Pence, in his capacity as Senate president, cover to delay certification of the Electoral College vote, sending the contested tallies back to the states.
Navarro, Bannon, and their GOP allies on the Hill hoped the contested states would revoke their certifications, deprive either candidate of the required 270 Electoral College votes, and give Trump one last shot victory — with the House of Representatives ultimately voting to decide the outcome of the 2020 election, using an arcane protocol that favored Trump.
What follows is an edited transcript of Rolling Stone’s conversation with Navarro. Misinformation Navarro pushed about election fraud has been omitted.
How did the Green Bay Sweep plan come together?
By the time early January was rolling around. Two things are obvious. One is that [Trump campaign manager Bill] Stepien, [deputy manager Justin] Clark and [Trump son-in-law Jared] Kushner, were not prosecuting a challenge [to Biden’s victory], and more importantly, they weren’t providing the logistical or financial support to this very small band of people led by Giuliani and Bernie Kerik to look at things. And the other thing that’s happening is the courts were rejecting challenge after challenge, not based on the evidence. But rather on procedural technicalities.
So the whole concept of the Green Bay Sweep was twofold. One was to provide a public forum whereby grievances we had regarding possible fraud and election irregularities could be aired in 24-hours of televised hearings to the American public, and thereby bypass the mainstream media’s biased coverage. And then the second part was to have a mechanism, following in the constitution, that would allow those likely illegal [Electoral College] votes to be sent back to the states for further review.
What was the endgame? You get Pence to delay certification of the Electoral College vote, send this to overtime — and then what?
One of two things could happen. They go back there [to the states], they look at it and they say, “Nope. It’s certified.” [The votes] come back, and that would be it. Fair enough.
But the more likely scenario based on our assessment of the evidence was that states would withdraw any certification. And the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives. And even though the House is controlled by Democrats, the way votes would be counted in a presidential election decided by the House, Trump would almost certainly win.
To clarify for readers: The Constitution allows that if neither candidate receives 270 votes in the Electoral College, the election is decided by the House. But in that scenario, it’s a unique process: Each state’s congressional delegation gets to cast a single vote. So while Democrats controlled more House seats, Republicans controlled more state delegations, and Trump would have likely emerged the victor?
That was the essence of the plan. It’s a well thought-out plan based on sound, constitutional law and existing legislative precedent. And all it required was peace and calm on Capitol Hill for it to unfold. And then you have two things that went awry: Pence’s betrayal, and, of course, the violence that erupted on Capitol Hill, which provided Pence, McConnell, McCarthy, Pelosi, and Schumer an excuse to abort the Green Bay Sweep, effectively, and certify the election.
Were GOP leaders McConnell and McCarthy read in on this Green Bay Sweep plan?
I don’t know. I primarily — almost exclusively — just worked with Steve Bannon. He was the strategist involved. He was the guy who was coordinating the whipping of the votes, right? There were over 100 congressmen — both the House of Representatives and senators — that were lined up to execute that plan.
It started flawlessly when [Arizona Rep. Paul] Gosar and [Texas Sen.] Cruz promptly at 1 p.m. called on scrutiny of the Arizona vote. Arizona was one of six battlegrounds: They were Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. And it started flawlessly, but the violence overtook that event. The rest, as they, say is history.
Who were the leaders of this plan on the Hill? Cruz and Gosar?
I wasn’t really involved in that. Again, that was Steve’s job. My whole thing — all the way through Jan. 6 — I continued to work on my research, and that was that was a time-consuming process. … My role in the whole thing was basically to provide Congress, via my reports, the analytical material they needed to actually make the challenges. And the president himself had distributed Volume One of the report to every member of the House and Senate a week or so earlier.
What were your communications with President Trump about this effort?
The only conversation I had with him was about the reports themselves. There was a couple of times I walked over to the Oval — both times after I finished a report — and personally handed him one and briefed him on it. In the first case, in front of me, he asked Molly Michael, his assistant, to make sure everybody on the Hill promptly got a copy of it.
You mention in your book that Trump wanted you to talk to Pence, that this was a directive from Trump, that Pence should speak to you.
When I was in the Oval briefing the president on the results, I expressed frustration with the fact that Mike wouldn’t return my calls. And that it would be useful, as we were moving to Jan 6, if that problem could be fixed. He said, yeah, he’d have Mike call me. Which Mike, in fact, did. The only problem was he hung up before he even spoke to me.
To be clear, prior to Jan. 6, I had great love and respect for Vice President Pence. The problem, as I describe it in the book, was he effectively got captured by his own staff. Marc Short and his general counsel, Greg Jacob, who I had had previous run-ins with during the pandemic. Short and Jacob were just bad people. Just bad people. Had no business being in the in the White House. They weren’t Trump people. They were just bad people. They hurt the president in a lot of different ways, not the least of which is how they handled this particular issue we’re talking about.
Bannon, obviously, has been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee. Have you spoken to them or are they seeking information from you?
I have gotten no communication whatsoever from them. It’s my view that they simply do not want to hear anything I have to say, because it is so contrary to their narrative. Their narrative rests on the premise that President Trump wanted to instigate violence to overthrow the election. My premise — which is fact — is that President Trump wanted only peace and calm so that we could meticulously implement the Green Bay Packers Sweep play, and thereby remand the votes to the back to the states, and in all likelihood, then move the election into the House of Representatives, because of the substantial fraud that was visible.
Let me stop you there. You’ve told me that President Trump wasn’t really read in on this plan, and yet you say he backed it?
You asked me whether I spoke to him about it. And I said, accurately, no, it wasn’t me who briefed him on this. OK.
Are you saying that Bannon briefed him on it?
You’ll have to track that down. I’m not going to speak for Steve or anybody else.
Let me simplify the question: Was President Trump read in on the Green Bay Packers Sweep plan?
I don’t know that for a fact.
But you just cited his backing of the plan as the reason why Trump was not for the violence that ensued. What do you know and what you are speculating about?
You asked me whether he was read in on the Green Bay Packers Sweep plan, OK? He understood what was supposed to happen that day. All you need to do is listen to this speech from the Ellipse that morning. You know, “If Mike does the right thing” — you just have to listen to what he said.
My clear understanding, but not from speaking to him directly, is that he [Trump] understood what the strategy was. The strategy was to challenge the votes with the 100 plus-group of congressmen that day, send them back to the states and let the chips fall where they may. But it wasn’t me who sat down and said, “Hey, boss, we can run the Green Bay Packers Sweep, we do X, Y and Z.” That wasn’t my role.
And you’re not able to tell me who did that?
I actually don’t know, factually.
But again: How you know that this thing happened, but you don’t know who did it?
I know that there were over 100 congressmen ready to implement the plan. I know that. I know what the plan was, right? It all hinged on getting the plan done at the state level. I know that the president met with people like [John] Eastman, and that there was a legal opinion explaining exactly what Pence can do. I know that that’s the reason why I wanted to talk to Mike — to assure him that there was substantial evidence of fraud and that he should exercise his duty, as president of the Senate, to send these things back to the states for 10 days.
Knowing all that, I think it’s fair to say that the president clearly understood the strategy. I don’t know if he called it “the Green Bay Sweep.” I doubt that. That was me and Steve’s description of it. You know: call a play; run the play. Based on what I know, the president understood what was going to happen that day. It required peace and calm. It was well within constitutional law, and we were basically exercising the constitutional right and democratic freedoms to challenge what we believed was a stolen election.
Everything that was done was done honorably and with good intentions. We were fighting what I believe was an attempt at a coup d’etat. We weren’t the ones trying to steal the election or engineer a coup. It was clearly the Democrats… . These folks bragged about stealing the election. They didn’t use the word “steal” — they did say they had to do it in order to “save the republic,” which I think is as close to an admission of guilt as you can get.
Bannon has been charged with criminal contempt of Congress. There are people who would call what you were plotting very much akin to a coup. Are you concerned about your own legal liability in this case?
You think people would call what I did akin to a coup?
I know you don’t see it that way, but I assure you there are people in America who see the activity that was taking place and think it was trying to overturn the duly determined democratic outcome of a national presidential election.
Yeah, I see. I see that point. But also remember a lot of the people who might hold that point of view were being fed the steady stream of MSNBC and CNN and New York Times and Washington Post lies that the election was fair and absent of any fraud or election irregularities, and that it was all sour grapes. But you know, I went through four years listening to that noise, rather than signal, from the corporate media. And if I had a dime for every time they reported something which I knew on its face to be untrue. I know you have enough money to comfortably retire.
There have been audits in Arizona. There have been court challenges everywhere. There have been studies of whether there were deceased voters in Georgia. None of it has revealed anything that would change the outcome of this election. So as you sit here now, do you feel like your analysis was square?
Yeah, I do.
You haven’t learned any new information since this election took place that has left you chagrined or regretful of the analysis that you created?
To the contrary. Let’s say that there’s two possible states of reality here. One is that history will show that it was a free and fair election, or as with Nixon v. Kennedy history will show that, yeah, it was stolen.
Living in two different realities — that’s an apt description of where we find ourselves in America. Do you think the American people will find agreement about the 2020 election or what happened on Jan 6?
I want to get to the bottom of what happened on Jan 6, just as much as anybody. I want to get to the bottom of it in a nonpartisan way. Kevin McCarthy is an idiot. I mean, he’s like a checkers player in the chess world. The fact that there are no legitimate Republicans on that committee, it turned it into a star chamber rather than a proper investigatory body.
I’d love to know how that violence erupted. I’m telling you I was one of the most crestfallen people on the planet at the end, when that happened, because I knew immediately: This won’t end way the we wanted it to.