Lawyers for Donald Trump opened their defense of the former president at his impeachment trial on Friday by claiming that the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was incited by far-left groups, amplifying an internet conspiracy theory on the floor of the U.S. Senate that has no basis in fact.
In this image from video, Michael van der Veen, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, … [+] speaks during the second impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)
“It is apparent that extremists of various different strifes and political persuasions pre-planned and premeditated an attack on the Capitol,” Attorney Michael van der Veen said without evidence.
The claim came a day after Democrats rested their case that Trump incited the deadly Capitol insurrection last month, presenting evidence that supporters of the 45th president who attended believed they acted on his behalf.
Van der Veen falsely claimed one of the first people arrested was “a leader of antifa,” the loosely organized network of antifascism activists.
The FBI said last month there is “no indication” that antifa was involved with the insurrection, which led to at least five deaths and hundreds of reported injuries.
Van der Veen’s claim that an antifa leader was arrested seemed to be a reference to the Utah activist John Earle Sullivan, who was arrested for civil disorder, unlawful entry and disorderly conduct at the Capitol insurrection. Sullivan has past ties to Black Lives Matter — whose leaders have disavowed him following the arrest — but has denied connections to antifa, Trump supporters or any political group.
50%. In a January poll taken by the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, that’s how many Republicans said it was accurate to say that antifa “was mostly responsible for the violence that happened in the riots at the U.S. Capitol.”