A self-styled leftist activist disavowed by Black Lives Matter leaders said he was paid tens of thousands of dollars by major media outlets that wanted to use the video footage he shot at the Capitol as he encouraged the mob during the siege on Jan. 6.
John Sullivan, founder of Insurgence USA, was indicted in early February for a host of crimes, including two felonies related to obstruction during Congress’s efforts to count and certify President Biden’s Electoral College victory over former President Donald Trump.
Video taken by the 25-year-old showed him following and encouraging Trump supporters from the entrance of the Capitol all the way to the moment when 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and Trump supporter who attempted to climb through a window into the Speaker’s Lobby, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer.
In arguing he was a journalist and not an agent provocateur, Sullivan’s lawyer, Steven Kiersh, submitted four invoices purportedly from major broadcasters, revealing a $35,000 payment to Sullivan from CNN for video license usage spanning from Jan. 6 through Jan. 13, a $35,000 payment from NBC Universal Media dated Jan. 27, a $5,000 undated payment for “footage of the siege of the Capitol” citing his Twitter page to be used on Showtime’s The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth, and a $2,375 payment from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation dated Jan. 27.
The Justice Department previously laid out how Sullivan allegedly violated a Utah judge’s conditions of release, including accessing three of his Twitter accounts in contravention of the court’s instructions, flouting the supervision officer’s instructions by buying a new phone, appearing on InfoWars to defend his actions, and to encourage people to follow his group, and mass emailing his Insurgence USA members to “Pack The Courtroom.”
“Insurgence USA is not deemed to have been involved in any criminal activity,” Sullivan’s lawyer claimed Tuesday as he attached the media invoices. “Defendant is legitimately self-employed as a documentarian and it is oppressive to require that he not be allowed to continue his primary area of employment for an extended period of time.”
His lawyer added: “The government is seeking to limit his use of the internet and to expressly prohibit him from using the following: Twitter, Facebook, encrypted platforms. The requests by the United States to limit defendant’s ability to communicate the way the vast majority of Americans communicate is oppressive, overbroad, and unconstitutional. The government’s request for limitations on defendant’s right to use social media is not reasonably related to the crimes for which he has been indicted.”
The Justice Department previously unsuccessfully sought to have him jailed pending trial for allegedly violating the terms of his release, and a D.C.-based magistrate judge on Tuesday rejected DOJ’s efforts to ban Sullivan from social media altogether, though he was ordered to disassociate himself from his Insurgence USA group while under house detention awaiting a possible trial.
“I am rejecting the broader prohibition on Twitter and Facebook and encrypted social media platforms,” Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather ruled, according to Politico, which said she also ordered Sullivan’s 24-hour GPS monitoring to end. She also ruled, though, that Sullivan “is to no longer work for Insurgence USA” and will not be allowed to use social media to incite violence or riots.
“Insurgence USA is absolutely the instrumentality through which Mr. Sullivan committed the relevant acts,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Candice Wong said, according to Politico. “It is Mr. Sullivan’s reason for being there and for his criminal participation in the riot.” The prosecutor called Sullivan “a sort of expert resource for rioters” as she alleged that “under the guise of journalism … he is engaged in and incited violent activity.”
Sullivan told InfoWars he stands by his actions, saying, “I am definitely not responsible for anything that took place.”
Sullivan voluntarily spoke with the bureau and “claimed to be an activist and journalist that filmed protests and riots, but admitted that he did not have any press credentials,” the FBI wrote.
When Sullivan reached the Speaker’s Lobby, he allegedly told police guarding the door, “We want you to go home.” The FBI said officers began to exit, and members of the crowd moved toward the doors, with Sullivan yelling, “Go! Get this s—!” The crowd can be seen trying to bust out the glass in the entryway door windows, and his video shows Babbitt getting shot trying to climb through a window.
Before entering the building, Sullivan filmed the crowd pushing through police barriers, and as Sullivan approached the Capitol with a large crowd, he said, “Let’s go! This s— is ours! … Let’s burn this s— down.” Sullivan can be seen joining a crowd trying to open doors guarded by law enforcement and telling the crowd, “I have a knife — let me up,” as the group broke windows. A member of the crowd said officers are “giving us the building,” and Sullivan said, “Haul that motherf—er out this b—-.”
The Justice Department argued that Sullivan “positioned himself with a front seat to not one, but multiple confrontations with officers at multiple locations, and made consistently gleeful exhortations about burning and breaking things.”
The description of Sullivan’s Insurgence USA website recently changed.
“Insurgence USA was started in 2020 in response to the Gorge Floyd [sic] tragedy,” Sullivan’s website said on Jan. 7, the day after the Capitol siege. “The lack of care for the human life was unacceptable so we set out to end police brutality. We then set out to empower and uplifting [sic] black and indigenous voices.”
“We are on the frontlines, giving you unedited raw footage, photos, and news of the insurrection here in America,” Sullivan’s website claims. “Revealing the truth about Antifa and BLM’s communist plans to overthrow democracy. Exposing the sinister motives of Proud Boys and Right-Wing militias as they plot to topple the government. Welcome to the revolution.”
The Justice Department has mentioned Sullivan faces charges of rioting in Provo, Utah, his hometown, for a Black Lives Matter protest he helped organize in June 2020. An August video showed Sullivan encouraging a group to attack the White House. Lex Scott, leader of BLM’s Utah chapter, described Sullivan as a “loose cannon” and said, “We do not want to be associated with” him.
The Washington Examiner reached out to NBC and CNN for comment.