WaPo, PolitiFact claim ‘no evidence’ antifa was present at Capitol on Jan 6, but 5 minutes of research says otherwise

Fact-checking publications have declared as false the claim that antifa was present at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when demonstrators entered the building and caused a joint session of Congress to delay the counting of electoral votes to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.

The Washington Post declared just three days after the incident, “We looked for antifa at the Capitol — we couldn’t find any” and said “no evidence supports this claim.” PolitiFact said, “There’s no evidence that the crowd was infiltrated or led by antifa activists in disguise” and said the claim is “mostly false.” The Washington Post acknowledged one person known to have entered the Capitol on that day shared antifa messaging, but that did not factor into their declaration that “no evidence supports” the claim of antifa infiltration on Jan 6.

Summary

  • Less than 5 minutes of internet search revealed an activist, John Earle Sullivan, was at the Capitol on Jan 6 and did share antifa-related materials and messaging.
  • While PolitiFact says “there’s no evidence that Sullivan ‘incited (the) insurgence’ on his own,” Sullivan has in fact been charged in relation to the Jan. 6, even charging documents allege he in fact made several incisive comments such as, “Let’s burn this shit down,”  “We gotta get this shit burned,” and “It’s our house, motherfuckers!”
  • While Sullivan shared antifa messaging before Jan. 6, PolitiFact treat his post-Jan. 6 claims of having no affiliation with the ideology as sufficient proof that he did not. It’s not uncommon for accused parties to try to protect their affiliates and allies from further legal liability. The weight of Sullivan’s post-Jan. 6 denials should be considered in the context they were made.
  • Both the Washington Post and PolitiFact say there is “no evidence” of antifa infiltration on Jan. 6. There is a distinction between evidence and definitive proof. Evidence can be circumstantial and still be evidence, and inculpatory and exculpatory pieces of evidence can both exist. The basis on which these fact-checkers claim “no evidence” exists is wrong.

Considering the claim of whether antifa was present at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, one common first piece of evidence to support that claim is that John Earle Sullivan has been charged in connection with the events at the Capitol that day. Interestingly, PolitiFact linked to examples from Sullivan’s known Twitter accounts (the account posts since been deleted) and noted he had shared #antifa hashtags and linked to a Jan. 6 Insurgence USA event to “Kick These Fascists Out of DC.” This is the definition of evidence to the claim that Sullivan was an adherent of antifa ideology, yet PolitiFact reported there’s “no evidence that the crowd was infiltrated” by antifa activists.

Further, Sullivan, who has also gone by the social media handle Jayden X was photographed wearing a pro-Trump hat and described the image as “Counter Intel.”

AntifaBook.com on Twitter: "Here is anarchist John Sullivan bragging about wearing a MAGA hat to infiltrate Trump supporters… "

PolitiFact further claimed there’s no evidence Sullivan alone incited the riotous events at the Capitol on Jan. 6. but conceded he said “Let’s burn this shit down.” Again, this is evidence that he was inciting riotous behavior (namely calling for the burning of a government building.) This is what is considered “inculpatory evidence,” or evidence in support of a given claim (in this case that Sullivan was inciting certain actions). This is evidence enough in fact that federal prosecutors have listed it in their charging documents against Sullivan, along with his remarks of  “This shit is ours! Fuck yeah!”  “It’s our house, motherfuckers! We are getting this shit” as reported by Law and Crime.

PolitiFact attempted to dismiss the weight of Sullivan’s remarks by saying “It was not clear if the comment was directed to or heard by any specific person or people.” That argument, offered on behalf of Sullivan by PolitiFact, rather than by Sullivan himself, would be considered an “exculpatory argument,” or an argument in opposition to a certain claim (in this case that Sullivan was inciting certain actions). The existence of an exculpatory argument does not negate the existence of exculpatory evidence. Further, evidence and definitive proof are two separate things. There can be inculpatory evidence of a thing that is considered circumstantial or perhaps lessened by exculpatory evidence and arguments. Whether the inculpatory evidence is outweighed by the exculpatory evidence or arguments is a matter of opinion and perhaps a jury, but not a supposedly unbiased “fact-checker.”

PolitiFact further said “Sullivan denied any affiliation with antifa.” This denial of course comes after Sullivan posted pro-antifa messages and after Jan. 6. So what weight should his post-Jan. 6 denials have? That’s an opinion not for a fact-checker to decide. Of relevance is the fact that its not uncommon for the criminally accused to disavow their links to certain gangs and groups, so as to avoid further reprecussions to those groups. There is a whole concept in mafia culture around the idea of not heling law enforcement pursue charges to one’s co-conspirators, called Omerta. The existence of this type of thinking is not a new concept.

While PolitiFact at least acknowledges Sullivan’s involvement in the events of Jan. 6, the Washington Post does not. That publication issued its “fact-check” declaration that no antifa could be found at the Capitol on Jan. 6 on Jan. 9, three days later. The full scope of those present at the Capitol that day is still not known months later as of June 2021. The Washington Post continues to report on those who have been arrested in the months following Jan. 6, including Sullivan. Reporting on those subsequent arrests shows that the full knowledge of those involved wasn’t known on Jan. 9. The Washington Post has not updated its Jan. 9 article, though it has referenced it in reporting as recently as June of 2021, so its erroneous fact-check article has not yet become a long-forgotten matter of record.

In summary, both the Washington Post and PolitiFact have declared no evidence to the claim antifa was present at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, despite readily available evidence in support of that very claim.

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