Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

The Good Coup

Peter Navarro had a perfectly legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling insurrectionists.
January 4, 2022
The Good Coup
(Photos: GettyImages)

Donald Trump’s former White House advisor Peter Navarro is mad.

The way he tells it, he and Steve Bannon had a perfectly legal strategy they termed the the “Green Bay Sweep” (a nod to Vince Lombardi) to deprive Joe Biden of the presidency. And everything was going swimmingly until Trump’s mob showed up and ruined the flow.

In a pair of recent interviews and the final chapters of his grudge-filled book, In Trump Time, Navarro says that he provided research reports to back objections to the Electoral College that were approved of by Trump and disseminated by his office to members of Congress. Bannon acted as the “strategist” and “whip,” and “over 100” members of Congress were “lined up to execute that plan.”

These details provide new insight into how closely Trump and his associates coordinated with the Hill to throw the election to Trump, which Navarro believes could have worked.

As he told Rolling Stone in an interview published Monday evening:

It started flawlessly when [Arizona Rep. Paul] Gosar and [Texas Sen.] Cruz promptly at 1 p.m. called on [sic] 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. . . .

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. . . .

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.

His theory was that the objections would take many hours, and the media would be forced to cover it all, creating pressure to finally send Electoral College votes back to the states for “further review.” Because . . . reasons?

At that point, Navarro told Rolling Stone,

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.

Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. You get a nice, legal coup. All above board and on the up-and-up.

It is interesting that Navarro believes that this version of events clears Trump of any responsibility for the violence on January 6. He writes in his book that he, Bannon, and Trump were “the last three people on God’s good Earth who want to see violence erupt on Capitol Hill” because “it was this violence that finally put an abrupt end to any hope the president had for taking back an election likely stolen from him.”

In other words: He, Bannon, and Trump were in the middle of executing a legal coup, which the violent coup attempt foiled. Therefore, he, Bannon and Trump couldn’t possibly be responsible for the violent attempted coup. Which is a defense, of sorts.

What Navarro is arguing is that he had a good coup in mind. The rioters were trying to do a bad coup. He’s the good guy. The rioters—and, funnily enough, Mike Pence, whom Navarro accuses of “betrayal”—are the bad guys who got in the way of this good coup. Navarro describes his Green Bay Sweep as “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,” Navarro said.

And yea, verily, there is nothing expressly illegal about the strategy Navarro came up with. There are perfectly legal ways to disqualify the Electoral College votes and throw the election to a vote in the House of Representatives by state delegations. And, Trump would have likely won that vote.

Navarro is certainly right: This scheme could have worked.

Whether that’s a defense or an indictment is up to America.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.