Former President Donald Trump‘s defense team took the floor on day four of his second impeachment trial on Friday, and right out of the gate, lawyer Mark Van der Veen was raising eyebrows.
Democratic House impeachment managers argued this week that those who ransacked the Capitol on January 6 did so at Trump’s direction. As Van der Veen made his way through a series of defenses in his opening remarks, he said that Antifa, a frequent scapegoat for violence associated with Trump supporters, was involved in the attack.
Refuting Democrats‘ claims that the attack on the Capitol was spurred by Trump, defense attorneys for Trump insisted the attacks were pre-planned by agitators of varying political affiliations.
According to Van der Veen, that included members of Antifa, the decentralized left-wing protest movement.
“One of the first people arrested was a leader of Antifa,” Van der Veen said.
Before the dust could settle in the wake of the riot, right-wing media and conspiracy theorists began releasing allegations of the riots being a hoax staged by Antifa. This was quickly disproved as the identities of those captured on camera surfaced and showed the alleged rioters were supporters of Trump, QAnon and members of extremist conservative groups like the Proud Boys.
One of those suggested as having Antifa ties was a Utah man named John Sullivan, who was one of the more than 200 people arrested and charged after the assault on the Capitol. A self-declared activist, Sullivan filmed 90 minutes of the chaos, including the viral footage of QAnon member Ashli Babbitt being shot by guards. Babbitt later died.
Sullivan, however, also claimed he was a journalist, but investigators later found he was an active participant in the riots. The Intercept reported that organizers have denounced Sullivan and said he was deemed unfit for membership in their efforts months prior to the attacks.
While Sullivan had a since-deleted Twitter identity as @ActivistJohn, his own footage makes it clear that he was activated for pro-Trump violence on January 6.
None of the 230 people arrested for alleged participation in the Capitol attacks were linked to any left-wing movement. There is no evidence that Sullivan was a member of Antifa, Black Lives Matter or any other left-leaning group, especially a “leader” of Antifa.
Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), one of Trump’s most devoted allies, felt it prudent to speak out against the Antifa angle.
“Some say the riots were caused by Antifa,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “There is absolutely no evidence of that, and conservatives should be the first to say so.”