Garrett Ziegler, the Kraken man in the White House

Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne entered the White House on December 18, 2020 for what some have described as the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency.

They got into the Oval Office in part thanks to a low-level White House staffer named Garrett Ziegler.

A right-wing opposition researcher, Ziegler, 26, at the time of the Kraken meeting, held a position in Peter Navarro’s Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. But that doesn’t quite do it justice. In addition to helping Flynn, Powell and former CEO Byrne into the White House, Ziegler has spent the past 18 months alternately trying to cast doubt on the 2020 election results, streaming documents from Hunter Biden’s laptop. , and bolster QAnon-inspired conspiracy theories. He has created a website and foundation that hosts the laptop’s content and runs a Telegram channel on which he frequently posts grim snippets of the computer.

Politico described Ziegler’s effort as a “holy war.” He approaches his crusade with remarkable zeal. Ziegler has spent months on Telegram surfaceing emails, videos and images from an archive of more than 120,000 recordings, which he claims to have received from Rudy Giuliani and Bernie Kerik.

It’s a combination of citizen journalism and right-wing shock extremism.

As with many involved in the pro-Trump fringe, it can be difficult to discern what is committed belief and what is raw spin. But unlike others in the White House or in the conservative movement’s communications apparatus, Ziegler himself sometimes acted as if he believed what he was selling.

Ziegler said Mark Meadows revoked his White House access privileges after the Dec. 18 meeting (he denies letting them in in the first place, but more on that later). In a later interview, Ziegler recalled telling Trump a month later — on Jan. 18, 2021 — that the election had been illegal, advocating unspecified “justifiable and proportionate actions.” In his book, Navarro praised Ziegler for traveling to a Native American reservation in Nevada to investigate allegations of vote buying – Ziegler claimed that “gift cards” were distributed to Native Americans in exchange for votes.

Ziegler also claimed in the weeks following Trump’s departure that he had been in contact with Ron Watkins, administrator of the far-right messaging forum 8Kun, a hub for QAnon conspiracy theories.

“He’s safe at the moment but they’ll target Ron because he’s too powerful,” Ziegler told a YouTuber in February 2021.

White House staff member

Ziegler grew up in central Illinois, scoring a 2016 internship with former Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), and a college internship with Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (R) and at Home White in 2017.

He graduated in 2018, later getting a job at Navarro’s office.

Ziegler speaks frequently about his background in the small Illinois town on his Telegram account and in interviews with local press, saying only one member of his family was involved in politics: Richard Nixon’s press secretary. , Ron Ziegler, alternatively referred to as “cousin” or as Garrett Ziegler’s father’s second cousin.

In some ways, he’s natural for his medium: a Gen Zer completely committed to the conservative cause, and either fully believing the information he’s spreading or not caring whether it’s true, and brimming with energy. aimed at exposing and purifying what it regards the corruption that has infected the heart of American politics.

Take a report that Ziegler claimed on Telegram to have “tried to get to POTUS” on November 5 – a day after the election.

The memo alleged “common cause” between the Chinese Communist Party and Mark Zuckerberg to overthrow Trump. Ziegler attached 73 pages of purported supporting evidence to get his point across.

“Zuck and Xi both want Mr. Trump to lose,” Ziegler wrote in the document. “They will do anything to make it happen.”

He seems to have pushed beyond the limits of his role in the Office of Manufacturing and Trade Policy.

On the evening of January 6, for example, he asked Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media coordinator and then press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, to set up an account for Trump on Gab. He offered Scavino what appears to be the phone number of Andrew Torba, the anti-Semitic founder of Gab. Ziegler posted the email to his Telegram account.

Ziegler, who spells Trump in his posts as TRVMP in an apparent attempt to lend the former president the credibility conferred by old Roman fonts, discussed his actions around the 2020 election in an extensive YouTube interview in February 2021.

At the time, Trump had just left office after his bid to overturn the election had failed. Ziegler chose to speak with MonkeyWerx, a YouTuber who tracks plane movements and Obama’s birth certificate, sells shaving soaps and promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Ron Guilmette, a researcher who focuses on the far right, first identified the interview with TPM, and also pointed TPM to Ziegler’s apparent involvement with 8kun.

MonkeyWerx added a WWG1WGA line to open their video with Ziegler – a QAnon-associated phrase that stands for “Where We Go One, We Go All”.

Monkey Werx seemed somewhat puzzled as to why Ziegler had come.

“I’ll be honest with you – at first I was a little scared because I was like, oh no, man, I’m on the White House radar – I need to figure out, what the hell is this? what did I do wrong?” said Monkey Werx.

“Once I saw your show and a buddy told me about it, I was like, ‘Oh, I want to meet him,'” Ziegler told Monkey Werx.

From there, Ziegler launched into a disquisition on his time in the Trump White House, focusing on its end: the effort to block what Ziegler described as a “coup,” and the rest of us recognize as an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In Ziegler’s account, Mark Meadows was a villain, the man who, according to Ziegler, revoked his “guest privileges” after the December 18 meeting at Kraken. Ziegler offered different accounts of his role in letting Flynn, Powell and Byrne into the building for a meeting that would turn into a howling match about how far the Trump administration should go in its effort to overturn the 2020 election results. .

To friendly investigators, he claimed he had “waved” the group. For the TPM, he minimized it.

“I simply sent General Flynn’s representative a URL to a form to fill out, which allowed the Secret Service to allow him in,” Ziegler said.

Ziegler claimed to have been in contact with several pro-Trump fringe figures who were outside the White House. He told Monkey Werx that he escorted Powell “to the residence once to try to get a binder full of evidence from the president”, before being “stranded”. RawStory reported that Ziegler also worked with Phil Waldron, an election-denying conspiracy theorist and retired Army colonel who provided information to the White House.

A month after the Dec. 18 meeting and after Jan. 6, Ziegler said, he attended a meeting at the White House with Meadows, White House attorney Eric Herschmann and Jared Kushner, “standing in the back “.

“Our elections are, by definition, conducted illegally and I said that directly to the president,” Ziegler recalled telling Trump, adding that Native Americans had been “bribed.”[ed] with gift cards” during the election.

Italy Gate Hunter

I tried to arrange a phone interview with Ziegler, emailing him questions. Ziegler alternately responded, brushing me off and referring me to the Secret Service, or just ignoring me. At some point, I noticed that I could no longer access Ziegler’s Telegram account from a phone number I had told him I could be reached at.

Much of the former White House employee’s work is done through a nonprofit he started called Marco Polo — an apparent reference to both Italy and China — to continue its investigations.

After being impeached by the Jan. 6 committee last week, he released an audio in which he called the committee an “anti-white Bolshevik campaign” and called the women who appeared before the panel “total hoes and thots”.

In environments more welcoming to Ziegler, he offered insight into the depth to which he views the left as an enemy and why.

He told Monkey Werx he sees the left’s “ultimate goal” as “essentially uprooting the middle class”, an outcome that “the real stock in the country – black, white, whatever – doesn’t want”.

Like many other Americans who have fallen into conspiratorial rabbit holes online, Ziegler exudes a mixture of anger and loneliness.

He is a devout Christian who has complained about not being able to connect with many other people working in the Trump White House.

And, he is crazy. Among Democrats, among government officials, among Fauci, among the Italian government, among Hunter Biden, among Deborah Birx, whose phone number he has already published on Telegram, and among Republicans who disagree with him.

This level of zeal led Ziegler down strange paths.

His group’s website links both to an archive of Hunter Biden’s laptop, but also to a “research board” hosted on 8kun, a hub of the QAnon movement. Cyber ​​Scoop, a technology news website, first reported the link.

The council establishes links with some of Ziegler’s supposed research targets, including a former employee of the US Embassy in Rome whom Italygate supporters suspect of helping steal the election. It also includes a line in quotes saying “PAID FOR BY DISARM THE DEEP STATE PAC”.

This PAC became known as QAnon’s Super PAC, partly because it was started by 8kun owners, and partly because it backed Q-Spouting candidates in 2020 like Rep. Marjorie Taylor. Greene (R-GA).

Ziegler himself mentioned in an interview that after the election he was in contact with “Ron – Codemonkey Z”.

Ron Watkins, the 8kun administration who allegedly played a role in creating “Q”, uses the alias Codemonkey Z. It’s unclear what the two discussed.

Ziegler also apparently spent time on ItalyGate, the theory that posits the CIA installed Biden as president after using military satellites controlled by an Italian defense contractor to zap voting machines.

The theory was first conveyed to Mark Meadows via Maria Zack and Michele Ballarin in late 2020. Meadows, the Jan. 6 committee found, ordered senior DOJ and military officials to investigate.

Ziegler told an Italian blogger in 2021 that he, along with Michael Flynn’s son, was trying to investigate the case himself in Italy, but a potential witness thwarted him by calling the ‘postal police’ on him.

“Whoever started this – right or wrong – will answer for it,” Ziegler said.

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Raymond I. Langston