A week before an angry mob stormed the Capitol, a communications expert, Jason Sullivan, a former aide to Roger J. Stone Jr., took a conference call with a group of supporters of President Donald J. Trump and made an urgent plea. .
After assuring his audience that the 2020 election had been stolen, Mr. Sullivan told them to go to Washington on January 6, 2021 — the day Congress would meet to complete the electoral tally — and “finish.” descend on the Capitol,” according to a recording of the conversation obtained by DailyExpertNews.
While Mr. Sullivan claimed he “did not incite violence or riot of any kind,” he urged those at the call to declare their presence at the Capitol in a manner that would intimidate members of Congress. , telling the group they needed to make sure lawmakers in the building “understand that people are breathing on their necks.”
He also promised that Mr. Trump himself would take action; the president, he said, would impose a form of martial law on Jan. 6 and would not leave office.
“Biden will never be in that White House,” Sullivan said. “That’s my promise to all of you.”
The recording of the phone call, which took place on December 30, 2020, emerged as the Justice Department expanded its criminal investigation into the Capitol attack. It offers a glimpse of the planning that took place leading up to the Capitol storming and the mindset of some of those who came in on Jan. 6 as some sort of last-minute stand to keep Mr Trump in office.
It also reflects the complexities federal prosecutors are likely to face as they begin to figure out how many — or even if — people involved in the political rallies that preceded the attack can be blamed for the violence that erupted.
After more than a year focusing solely on rioters who took part in the storming of the Capitol, prosecutors have broadened their horizons in recent weeks and have begun to question whether those involved in encouraging protests — like the one Sullivan described – could be accused of disrupting the work of Congress.
Mr. Sullivan’s comments during the call appeared to be an attempt to motivate a group of people disadvantaged by the election to take direct action against members of Congress on Jan. 6, foreshadowing what Mr. Trump himself would say in a speech that day. While it remains unclear whether any of Mr. Sullivan’s appeal joined the mob that entered the Capitol, he seemed to urge his listeners to put unusual pressure on lawmakers just as they were overseeing the final tally. of the votes of the Electoral College.
In a statement from his lawyer, Mr Sullivan downplayed the nature of the appeal, saying he had merely “shared encouragement” with what he described as “people who all felt their voices had been lost in the 2020 election”. Sullivan said he had been asked to join the call by a group of anti-vaccine activists — or what he called “health freedom mothers” — who were organizing a “small, authorized event” in the Capitol on Jan. 6. †
“I only promoted peaceful solutions where Americans could raise their voices and be heard, as expressed in our First Amendment,” Mr Sullivan said in the statement. “I in no way condone the violence of protesters.”
Still, on the recording of the conversation, Mr. Sullivan can be heard telling his listeners that lawmakers at the Capitol should “feel pressure.”
“If we make the people in that building sweat and they understand that they may not be able to walk the streets anymore if they do the wrong thing, then maybe they will do the right thing,” he said. “We have to put pressure on that.”
As the Justice Department expands its investigation, federal prosecutors are using a grand jury in Washington to gather information about political organizers, speakers and so-called VIPs involved in a series of pro-Trump demonstrations after the 2020 election. those meetings, Ali Alexander received a subpoena from the grand jury and said last week that he intended to comply with his requests.
In the run-up to January 6, Mr. Alexander publicly launched a press campaign against lawmakers intended to halt the final electoral count, saying he was working with Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama and Representatives Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona, all Republicans.
“The four of us planned to put maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” said Mr Alexander. said in a since-deleted video on Periscope. The plan, he said, was to “change the hearts and minds of the Republicans who sat in that body and heard our loud roar from outside.”
It is unclear whether the Justice Department is aware of Mr Sullivan’s conference call; the department declined to comment. The House Committee investigating the events of January 6 obtained a copy of the recording several months ago by the woman who made it, Staci Burk, a law student and Republican activist from Arizona.
Shortly after the election, Mrs. Burk convinced that counterfeit ballots had been flown en masse to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. She eventually filed an anonymous affidavit regarding the ballots in a vote-rigging case filed in federal court in Phoenix by pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell.
The Aftermath of Capitol Riot: New Developments
Debating a criminal referral. The Jan. 6 commission has become divided over whether or not to criminally refer former President Donald J. Trump to the Justice Department, even though it has concluded that it has sufficient evidence to do so. The debate revolves around whether a referral would backfire by politically sullying the expanding federal investigation.
After becoming involved with Ms. Powell, Ms. Burk said she was approached by several members of a right-wing paramilitary group, the 1st Amendment Praetorian, associated with a former legal client of Ms. Powell, Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.
Ms Burk said members of the group then placed her under unwanted surveillance and insisted on moving into her home in what they described as an effort to protect her from people who would seek revenge against her for coming forward about voter fraud.
It was a member of the 1st amendment Praetorian, said Ms Burk, who had attended the conference call with Mr Sullivan. Ms. Burk said she taped the conversation, as she taped other 1st Amendment Praetorian activities, because she felt threatened and unsafe by the group’s presence in her home.
At one point during the conversation, Mr. Sullivan was asked by an unknown questioner whether Mr. Trump intended to introduce martial law on January 6. That explosive idea had been publicly put forward two weeks earlier by Mr Flynn during a performance on the right-wing television network Newsmax.
Sullivan answered the question by telling the man that he foresaw that Mr Trump would introduce “limited form of martial law” on Jan. 6.
“I see no other way around it as he will not allow election fraud to take place,” Mr Sullivan said. “It’s not going to happen.”
A social media consultant who calls himself “the wizard of TwitterMr. Sullivan worked for a political action committee led by Mr. Stone, a longtime close of Mr. Trump’s, during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to Reuters, one of the projects he did for Mr. Stone was a strategy paper in which described how Twitter “swarms” could be used to amplify political messages.
More recently, Mr. Sullivan played an active role in promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that prominent liberals belong to a cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. During a public appearance last year with Ms. Powell and Mr. Flynn, Mr. Sullivan called Hillary Clinton “a godless woman” and then made a gesture suggesting that she be hanged.
During the conference call for January 6, Mr. Sullivan told listeners that he was an expert at making things go viral online, but that simply spreading the word that the election had been stolen wasn’t enough.
“There has to be a multi-front strategy, and that multi-front strategy, I think, is definitely descending on the Capitol,” he said. “Let those people feel it inside.”
Luke Broadwater reporting contributed.