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In Call Before Jan. 6 Riot, a Plea to ‘Descend on the Capitol’

Days before Jan. 6, a onetime aide to Roger J. Stone Jr. told Trump backers to make lawmakers meeting to finalize the 2020 election results feel that “people are breathing down their necks.”
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One week before an angry mob stormed the Capitol, a communications expert named Jason Sullivan, a onetime aide to Roger J. Stone Jr., joined a conference call with a group of President Donald J. Trump’s supporters and made an urgent plea.

After assuring his listeners that the 2020 election had been stolen, Mr. Sullivan told them that they had to go to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021 — the day that Congress was to meet to finalize the electoral count — and “descend on the Capitol,” according to a recording of the call obtained by The New York Times.

While Mr. Sullivan claimed that he was “not inciting violence or any kind of riots,” he urged those on the call to make their presence felt at the Capitol in a way that would intimidate members of Congress, telling the group that they had to ensure that lawmakers inside the building “understand that people are breathing down their necks.”

He also pledged that Mr. Trump was going to take action on his own; the president, he said, was going to impose a form of martial law on Jan. 6 and would not be leaving office.
“Biden will never be in that White House,” Mr. Sullivan declared. “That’s my promise to each and every one of you.”

The recording of the call, which took place on Dec. 30, 2020, emerged as the Justice Department has expanded its criminal investigation of the Capitol attack. It offers a glimpse of the planning that went on in the run-up to the storming of the Capitol and the mind-set of some of those who zeroed in on Jan. 6 as a kind of last stand for keeping Mr. Trump in office.
It also reflects the complexities that federal prosecutors are likely to face as they begin the task of figuring out how much — or even whether — people involved in the political rallies that preceded the assault can be held accountable for the violence that erupted.

After more than a year of focusing exclusively on rioters who took part in the storming of the Capitol, prosecutors have widened their gaze in recent weeks and have started to question whether those involved in encouraging protests — like the one that Mr. Sullivan was describing — can be held culpable for disrupting the work of Congress.

Mr. Sullivan’s remarks during the call appeared to be an effort to motivate a group of people aggrieved by the election to take direct action against members of Congress on Jan. 6, presaging what Mr. Trump himself would say in a speech that day. While it remains unclear whether anyone on Mr. Sullivan’s call went on to join the mob that breached the Capitol, he seemed to be exhorting his listeners to apply unusual pressure on lawmakers just as they were overseeing the final count of Electoral College votes.

In a statement provided by his lawyer, Mr. Sullivan played down the nature of the call, saying he had merely “shared some encouragement” with what he described as “people who all felt their votes had been disenfranchised in the 2020 elections.” Mr. Sullivan said he had been asked to participate in the call by a group of anti-vaccine activists — or what he called “health freedom advocate moms” — who were hosting “a small, permitted event” at 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 any protesters.”

Still, in the recording of the call, Mr. Sullivan can be heard telling his listeners that the lawmakers inside the Capitol “need to feel pressure.”

“If we make the people inside that building sweat and they understand that they may not be able to walk in the streets any longer if they do the wrong thing, then maybe they’ll do the right thing,” he said. “We have to put that pressure there.”

As the Justice Department widens its inquiry, federal prosecutors are using a grand jury in Washington to gather information on political organizers, speakers and so-called V.I.P.s connected to a series of pro-Trump rallies after the 2020 election. One prominent planner of those rallies, Ali Alexander, received a subpoena from the grand jury and said last week that he intended to comply with its requests.

In the run-up to Jan. 6, Mr. Alexander publicly discussed a pressure campaign against lawmakers that was meant to stop 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.

“We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Mr. Alexander said in a since-deleted video on Periscope. The plan, he said, was to “change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”

It is unclear if the Justice Department is aware of Mr. Sullivan’s conference call; the department declined to comment. The House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 was provided with a copy of the recording some months ago by the woman who made it, Staci Burk, a law student and Republican activist from Arizona.

Shortly after the election, Ms. Burk became convinced that phony ballots had been flown in bulk into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. She eventually submitted an anonymous affidavit concerning the ballots in an election fraud case filed in Federal District Court in Phoenix by the pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.

Debating a criminal referral. The Jan. 6 House committee has grown divided over whether to make a criminal referral of former President Donald J. Trump to the Justice Department, even though it has concluded that it has enough evidence to do so. The debate centers on whether a referral would backfire by politically tainting the expanding federal investigation.

Cooperating with investigators. Pat A. Cipollone and Patrick F. Philbi, two of Mr. Trump’s top White House lawyers, met with the Jan. 6 House committee, while Ali Alexander, a prominent organizer of pro-Trump events after the 2020 election, said he would assist in the federal investigation.

Contempt charges. The House voted to recommend criminal contempt of Congress charges against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino Jr., two close allies of Mr. Trump, after the pair defied subpoenas from the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

After becoming involved with Ms. Powell, Ms. Burk said she had been approached by several members of a right-wing paramilitary group, the 1st Amendment Praetorian, which was associated with a former legal client of Ms. Powell’s, Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.

Ms. Burk said that members of the group then placed her under unwanted surveillance, insisting on moving into her home in what they described as an effort to protect her from people who might want to retaliate against her for coming forward about voter fraud.
It was a member of the 1st Amendment Praetorian, Ms. Burk said, who had joined the conference call that featured Mr. Sullivan. Ms. Burk said she recorded the call, much like she recorded other activities by the 1st Amendment Praetorian, because she felt threatened and unsafe by the group’s presence in her home.

At one point during the call, Mr. Sullivan was asked by an unknown questioner whether Mr. Trump intended to impose martial law on Jan. 6. That explosive notion had been raised publicly two weeks earlier by Mr. Flynn during an appearance on the right-wing television network Newsmax.

Mr. Sullivan answered the question by telling the man that he foresaw Mr. Trump putting in place “a limited form of martial law” on Jan. 6.

“I don’t see any other way around it, because he’s not going to allow an election fraud to take place,” Mr. Sullivan said. “It’s not going to happen.”

A social media consultant who calls himself “the Wizard of Twitter,” Mr. Sullivan worked for a political action committee run by Mr. Stone, a longtime confidant of Mr. Trump’s, during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to Reuters, one of the projects he did for Mr. Stone was a strategy document describing how to use Twitter “swarms” to amplify political messages.
More recently, Mr. Sullivan has taken an active role in promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that prominent liberals belong to a cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. At a public appearance last year with Ms. Powell and Mr. Flynn, Mr. Sullivan called Hillary Clinton a “godawful woman” and then made a gesture suggesting she should be hanged.
On the conference call ahead of Jan. 6, Mr. Sullivan told his listeners that he was an expert at making things go viral online, but that it was not enough to simply spread the message that the election had been stolen.

“There has to be a multiple-front strategy, and that multiple-front strategy, I do think, is descend on the Capitol, without question,” he said. “Make those people feel it inside.”
Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.

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LIFE & WORK

A recession might be coming. Here’s what it could look like

Slowcession? Richcession? Or just recession?

Whether in the supermarket aisle, or the corporate suite, a lot of people are expecting a recession – even if there’s no certainty there will be one at all.

Survey after survey shows fears of recession are high. It’s easy to see why.

The Federal Reserve is increasing interest rates in the most aggressive fashion since the early 1980s as it races to bring down inflation. And a recession is often the consequence when the central bank starts raising borrowing costs.

The prospect of recession is certainly scary. But even if the U.S. is headed for one, it’s worth keeping in mind that no two recessions are alike.

A recession could be blip-ish, like the short, pandemic-induced one in 2020, or more like the economic tsunami that followed the 2008 housing meltdown.

So, from recession with a small r to the so-called soft landing, here are some of the current predictions of what kind of economic slowdown the U.S. could be facing.

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LIFE & WORK

Brad Inman at Connect New York: 2023 is a year for metamorphosis

The suspect in the overnight fatal shooting that left three people dead in Yakima, Washington, has died after taking his own life, the Yakima Police Chief said Tuesday.

Police were pointed to the suspect’s location after getting a 911 call from a woman who had lent the suspect her phone near a Target store in Yakima, Police Chief Matt Murray said in a Tuesday evening news conference.

Officers responded immediately and, within minutes, arrived at the scene, according to the chief.

The suspect apparently shot and killed himself and that was prior to officers’ arrival. There were officers who heard the shots, but no one saw him actually do that,” Murray said.

Officials tried to save his life but he was later pronounced dead, according to Murray, who had earlier Tuesday indicated that the suspect had been taken into custody.

The chief said officials will need to go through the formal process of identifying the suspect, “but I can say with pretty good confidence that we believe that this is the person who was involved.”

The police department had earlier identified the “presumed homicide suspect” as Jarid Haddock, 21, a Yakima County resident, according to a Facebook post.

Police earlier had a house surrounded where they thought the suspect was when they learned he was in the area of a Target store in Yakima, the chief said.

There, the suspect asked a woman to borrow her phone and called his mom and “made several incriminating statements including ‘I killed those people,’” Police Chief Matt Murray said.

The woman heard the man say he was going to kill himself and called 911, according to Murray.

“I listened to that call. It’s pretty harrowing, and I have to really thank her again because she was very courageous in getting us there,” the chief said.

Murray said responding officers founding the man near a marijuana retailer, but did not provide information on whether he was inside or outside the business where he allegedly shot himself.

The suspect had “a large amount of ammunition” and a firearm when officers found him, the chief said.

Murray told Tuesday that the suspect pulled into the ARCO/ampm gas station and “tried to get into the lobby,” but found the doors were locked.

“He then walked across the street to the Circle K,” Murray said. “As he’s walking into the store he pulls out his gun and there are two people getting food and he shoots them.” Both people died, Murray said.

The suspect then walked out of the store and shot another person, who also died.

Murray said the suspect went back across the street to the ARCO/ampm gas station and shot into a car and drove off.

“We later learned it was his car and that he shot the window of that car in order to get inside because he had locked his keys in the car,” Murray said.

The motive behind the shooting remains under investigation but Murray said the attack appeared “very much random.”

“There was no interaction between him and people,” the chief said. “They were just sitting there getting food and got surprised by this person who came in and … literally as he was opening the door, he started shooting these people.”

Justin Bumbalogh, who was working at Elite Towing and Recovery, next door to the Circle K, said he was half asleep when he heard gunshots. Police said the shooting occurred around 3:30 a.m. local time.

 

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COVID 2023: Do We Know Where We’re Going?—Virtual Lecture, Feb. 7

Michael Osterholm, author of the New York Times Best-Selling “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs”, on the challenges of the mutating virus.

University of Minnesota Professor Michael T. Osterholm will deliver “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Do We Know Where We Are Going?”—the first Spring 2023 Bentson Dean’s Lecture—on Tues., Feb. 7, at 6:00 p.m. EST.

Osterholm, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, will discuss what the ever-mutating COVID virus will mean for the future of the pandemic: When will it end? Will it end? Will there be a return to “normal”? The talk will focus on current mutations and data as of February 2023.

Osterholm, appointed to then-President-elect Joe Biden’s Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board in November 2020, is the author of the New York Times best-selling 2017 book, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs, which details the most pressing infectious disease threats of our day and lays out a nine-point strategy on how to address them.

Osterholm served for 24 years (1975-1999) in various roles at the Minnesota Department of Health, including the last 15 as state epidemiologist. He has led numerous investigations of outbreaks of international importance, including foodborne diseases, the association of tampons and toxic shock syndrome, and hepatitis B and HIV in healthcare settings. Osterholm was also the principal investigator and director of the National Institutes of Health-supported Minnesota Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (2007-2014) and chair of the Executive Committee of the Centers of Excellence Influenza Research and Surveillance network.

An RSVP is required by visiting the event page. Zoom coordinates will be sent to attendees the day of the event. For more information, email cas.events@nyu.edu or call 212.998.8100.

Free and open to the public, the Bentson Lectures have, for nearly 10 years, showcased current and visiting faculty and other guests. Funded by the Bentson Family Foundation, recent Bentson Lecturers have included NYU Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, the New York Times “Ethicist” columnist, on “The Ethics of Work”; NYU Anthropology Professor Rayna Rapp on “The Implications of the Growing role of Genetic Testing”; Karen Adolph, professor of psychology and neuroscience at NYU, on early childhood development in her lecture “Learning to Move and Moving to Learn”; and Brooke Kroeger, an NYU journalism professor emeritus, on “What We Can Learn about Allyship Today from ‘Suffragents’.”

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