Trump and some of his closest allies have blamed infiltrators from the left-wing Antifa movement for instigating the violence at the Capitol, despite evidence that the overwhelming bulk of the rioters and protesters were in town to support Trump’s drive to block certification of the election of President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump and his supporters seem certain to seize on Sullivan’s arrest as evidence that the infiltration claim was true. His group claims to oppose police abuse and right-wing violence, while some of his writings echo language used by the anti-fascist movement.
Sullivan claimed in news interviews after the riot that he was documenting the events there as a journalist, but prosecutors contend he was a participant in the violence.
FBI Special Agent Matthew Foulger said in an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint that a series of statements Sullivan made on video encouraged the lawbreaking.
Foulger said that as the crowd rushed the Capitol building, Sullivan declared: “We accomplished this shit. We did this together. Fuck yeah! We are all a part of this history,” and “Let’s burn this shit down.”
The complaint alleges that as rioters sought to break the glass in a set of doors in the Capitol, Sullivan rushed forward and said he could help. “Hey guys, I have a knife. I have a knife. Let me up,” the activist allegedly said.
The FBI appeared to dispute Sullivan’s claim that he was a reporter. Foulger told the court that Sullivan “admitted … that he has no press credentials.”
“The investigation has not revealed any connection between Sullivan and any journalistic organizations,” the FBI agent said.
The federal complaint says Sullivan voluntarily provided the FBI with copies of the video footage he shot that day, much of which was posted online.
The felony charge against Sullivan suggests prosecutors view his case as more serious than most of the scores of other cases filed against alleged rioters. Most who simply surged in with the crowd are charged solely with the two misdemeanors. The civil disorder charge, brought under the 1968 Anti-Riot Act, carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison.
Jail records show Sullivan was booked on Thursday into the Tooele County Detention Center outside Salt Lake City. He is set to appear in federal court on Friday afternoon.