John Sullivan, who claimed to be a journalist but can be more accurately described as an expert rioter and felon, was paid by CNN and NBC for his video footage of the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol building. He now faces multiple charges for his role in the Capitol invasion.
Sullivan comes from a Mormon family and used to be a competitive speed skater. He even participated in the 2018 Olympic trials. Leading up to Capitol Hill’s incident, Sullivan faced riot and criminal mischief charges for his role in a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in Utah last June.
Sullivan is the leader and founder of his group called Insurgence USA, which started in 2020 in response to George Floyd’s death. On Jan. 7, right after the Capitol invasion, his website stated: “Insurgence USA was started in 2020 in response to the Gorge Floyd [sic] tragedy,” and “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,” according to the Washington Examiner.
If you look on his website now, however, the message that he expresses is quite different, stating: “Insurgence USA’s mission is to provide you the truth. We are on the frontlines, giving you unedited raw footage, photos, and news of the insurrection here in America. 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 changed statement is likely an attempt to make him appear more like a journalist and less like a radical leftist.
Sullivan violated his release conditions for charges against him related to BLM protests in Utah last June. He went on Twitter, had an appearance on Infowars encouraging others to follow his group, and even sent out mass emails to his group members telling them to “Pack the Courtroom,” according to the Washington Examiner.
“I knew about the storming of the Capitol, obviously, for a while. Like probably like four weeks. I didn’t know the specific time they were going to storm the Capitol, but I knew it was going to happen on that day,” Sullivan said to Rolling Stone. “When Trump says he’s going to be there, I mean, people are going to go make that extra effort. Suddenly it looks like they’re planning on storming the Capitol building and they were going to have the numbers to do so. So that’s when I knew I had to be there. I went on the 4th, so like two days prior.”
Sullivan was indicted for various crimes related to the Jan.6 invasion of the Capitol building. In trying to prove that Sullivan was a journalist and not someone trying to instigate or partake in the violence, his lawyer produced invoices from major broadcasters, including a $35,000 payment from CNN and a $35,000 payment from NBC.
Sullivan’s prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candice Wong, said that Sullivan’s video footage unambiguously urged violence and attacks on police. She said that Sullivan serves as “a sort of expert resource for rioters,” according to Politico. “Under the guise of journalism …. he is engaged in and incited violent activity, including the kind of destructive society we saw on Jan. 6,” she said.
Sullivan was reportedly saying things like: “Let’s go! This s— is ours! … Let’s burn this s— down.” He 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.
An FBI affidavit stated that “SULLIVAN claimed to be an activist and journalist that filmed protests and riots, but admitted that he did not have any press credentials.” They were very interested in Sullivan’s footage, due to him having captured the police shooting pro-Trump supporter, 35-year-old Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, but did not find “any connection between SULLIVAN and any journalistic organizations.”