President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has been working to bolster conspiratorial claims that left-wing agitators played a dominant role in the last week’s Capitol riot.
Giuliani has zeroed in on self-described leftist activist John Earle Sullivan of Utah, who was charged in federal court Thursday on three counts related to the Capitol riot, and has argued that the presence and statements of Sullivan and other unidentified rioters indicate that the storming was driven by forces opposed to Trump.
“We have people who invaded like Mr. Sullivan and his apparently Black Lives Matter directed group of rioters and looters and whatever else they are,” Giuliani said in a Thursday episode of his podcast titled “Another FRAME UP.”
He also claimed that the riot was something “that the President had nothing to do with.”
The “Antifa” argument is just one of a number conspiracy theories Giuliani has pushed on behalf of Trump since the November election. Giuliani, who is still expected to play a role in Trump’s impeachment defense even though the President has told staff not to pay him, did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Giuliani’s tweet was first reported by the Emptywheel blog, a site specializing in national security and civil liberties issues.
In the now-removed Tweet, Giuliani included a screenshot of a text purportedly from Sullivan’s brother James in which the sender claimed to be working with the FBI “to expose and place total blame on John” and more than 200 members of Antifa.
Neither Giuliani nor James Sullivan have produced evidence to support the claim that Antifa was involved in the January 6 riot. Federal law enforcement officials have said they have found no evidence suggesting Antifa played a significant role in the insurrection.
John Sullivan and his brother James appear to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
James Sullivan is an ardent Trump supporter, according to his Facebook page. He is also the co-founder of Civilized Awakenings, a civil rights organization that seeks to help Black conservatives “find real solutions to the problems the Black Americans are facing.”
In a brief interview with CNN, a spokesperson for Civilized Awakenings confirmed Sullivan had spoken at a Proud Boys rally in Portland but stressed neither he nor Civilized Awakenings are part of that group. The spokesperson also confirmed Sullivan has been in contact with Rudy Giuliani, but declined to discuss the details.
James Sullivan declined comment.
Neither John Sullivan nor the attorney representing him on the charges stemming from the Capitol siege could be reached for comment Friday evening. Attorney Peter Kern, who represents Sullivan in a separate criminal case filed this summer in Utah declined to characterize any political affiliations Sullivan may have.
During the siege, John Sullivan recorded the mayhem and provided commentary on what was going on. He was charged with disorderly conduct, interfering with law enforcement, and knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building, according to a criminal complaint. He was taken into custody in Utah, where he lives.
According to the complaint, Sullivan told the FBI he was an activist and journalist who filmed protests and riots, “but admitted that he did not have any press credentials.” He told agents he was wearing a ballistic vest and gas mask and entered the building through a broken window, the affidavit states. While standing outside the Capitol building before entering, he proclaimed, “Let’s burn this sh*t down.”
Once inside, he can be heard on audio arguing with police and telling them to stand down or that they might get hurt, according to the affidavit.
“You are putting yourself in harm’s way,” he allegedly told officers. “The people have spoken.” The arrest affidavit also says that as a crowd attempted to open doors to one part of the Capitol, Sullivan can be heard on the video saying, “Hey guys, I have a knife. I have a knife. Let me up.”
Federal authorities have not identified John Sullivan as a member of Antifa, and he denied supporting Antifa in an interview with a Utah newspaper last week. Sullivan said in the same interview that he didn’t encourage violence or vandalism.
When asked about some of the things he said during a 40-minute video he recorded of the incident, he said, “When you’re in a massive crowd like that, you have to blend in.”
The paper, The Deseret News, also reported in July that Sullivan is part of a group called “Insurgence USA” and took part in a protest in June in which he and others demonstrated in opposition to a scheduled pro-law enforcement demonstration. The paper reported he was arrested after the protest and booked into jail for investigation of “rioting, making a threat of violence and criminal mischief.”
That case is pending, online court records show. Kern said Sullivan’s arraignment had been postponed and he had yet to enter a plea.
In August, Sullivan was in Washington, DC, speaking to a gathering at Black Lives Matter Plaza, according to a video on YouTube.
“We [expletive] about to burn this [expletive] down,” he told the crowd. “We got to rip Trump right out of that office over there.”
He then led the crowd in a chant of, “It’s time for a revolution.”
In the aftermath of last week’s siege on the capitol, Sullivan appeared on CNN’s AC360 and ABC’s Good Morning America, commenting on dramatic footage he shot inside the Capitol.
“By no means am I there on the Trump side or the Biden side,” he told Anderson Cooper.