How Rudy Giuliani turned to a far-right network for bogus evidence to frame 'antifa' for January 6th
After filming the fatal shooting of Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, an activist disavowed by Black Lives Matter and other leftist organizations before Jan. 6 became the public face of the right-wing hoax that “antifa" was responsible for attacking the US Capitol.
The film also reveals how the 27-year-old from Provo, John Sullivan, urged rioters to "break that shit" as they pressed towards the doors to the Speaker's Lobby, as lawmakers hurried to safety on the other side.
It now appears Sullivan learned about the planned assault on the US Capitol through his access to a far-right network that included Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Individuals in this network then turned around and fed Sullivan's information to Rudy Giuliani. Trump’s personal attorney then exploited this information in a propaganda effort to deflect blame for the attack from the former president and his supporters.
Foremost among those attempting to frame "antifa" by spotlighting John Sullivan's involvement was his brother, James Sullivan. A conservative activist with links to the Proud Boys, James Sullivan wrote in a text to an unknown recipient shortly after the attack: "I'm currently working with the FBI to expose and place total blame on John and the 226 members of antifa that instigated the Capitol' riot.'”
A screenshot of this text was obtained by Millie Weaver, part of a team of pro-Trump operatives drafted to review and analyze video of the Jan. 6 attack for Giuliani. Weaver shared the screenshot with Giuliani, her partner Gavin Wince told Raw Story, and Giuliani appears to have tweeted it out by accident nine days after the Jan. 6 attack. However,
To date, no "members of antifa" nor other left-wing activists have been publicly identified as taking part in the breach. The only known associate of John Sullivan who went inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 is Jade Lee Sacker, a photographer working on a documentary about the two brothers.
In a conversation recorded by Thad Cisneros, a former Proud Boy from Utah, John Sullivan explained, "Because I know we were going to storm the Capitol. I'm on chats. I'm on underground chats like — I have my resources, I have my resources. That is not me, but I have people, right?"
Cisneros told Raw Story that he "had zero knowledge" of John Sullivan's plans for Jan. 6 before the attack.
This recording was published in PsyOp the Steal, a pro-Trump documentary made by Weaver, with Cisneros' voice altered to protect his identity. Cisneros recently disclosed to Raw Story that he is the person asking questions in the recording. He also told Raw Story he provided the FBI with a copy of the recording.
Cisneros confirmed that on the night after the Jan. 6 attack, he called Sullivan and spoke to him outside the Hamilton Hotel. Shortly after Cisneros and Sullivan's meeting, Sullivan was detained by the DC Metropolitan Police and FBI for questioning about his involvement in the attack on the Capitol. Later, Cisneros said, the FBI contacted him. Agents wanted to talk to him about Joe Biggs, a national Proud Boys leader, and Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers.
"They asked me questions I knew I couldn't lie about," Cisneros told Raw Story. "They asked me: 'Do you know who this person is?' Of course. This is Joe Biggs. I called Joe Biggs and told him. I'm now regarded as a security threat by the Proud Boys. I understand."
The FBI also wanted information about Rhodes and other members of the Oath Keepers, but Cisneros told Raw Story he could not provide anything relevant to Jan. 6. He acknowledged that he and Rhodes "had been on several chats together," albeit only to discuss "organizing communities."
Cisneros said he was part of a council of national Proud Boys leaders known as the "War Boys," predating the MOSD Leaders Group, a private message group set up on Dec. 20, 2020 to serve as a "national rally planning committee." Biggs, Ethan Nordean (aka Rufio Panman) and former national chairman Enrique Tarriol are all in jail awaiting trial on charges of seditious conspiracy.
"Enrique represented the strategy," Cisneros said. "Rufio represented the brawn. Biggs brought the military chutzpah. I unofficially brought a sense of reason and logic. When I hear things like, 'Storm the capitol,' it sends red flags."
Federal court documents indicate that the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers privately discussed plans to assault the Capitol in separate chats.
On Jan. 4, Tarrio reportedly posted to the MOSD Leaders Group stating, "I didn't see this voice note until now, you want to storm the Capitol." Tarrio's message was in response to a voice note posted the previous evening by John Charles Stewart, a member MOSD's "upper tier leadership," recommending that the Proud Boys "plan the operations based around the front entrance to the Capitol building."
Meanwhile, on Christmas day, according to federal court documents, Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs messaged in the OKFL Hangout Chat when Congress convened for a joint session to certify the electoral vote.
"We need to make those senators very uncomfortable with us being a few hundred feet away," Meggs said.
"I think Congress will screw [President Trump] over," Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes reportedly responded. "The only chance we/he has is if we scare the s*** out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time is [sic] they don't do the right thing."
In bombshell testimony before the January 6th Committee on Tuesday, former aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed that word of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers' plans reached the White House in the days before the Jan. 6 attack, even as Trump himself was planning to go to the Capitol when Congress met to certify the electoral vote.
"As Mr. Giuliani and I were walking to his vehicle that evening, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, 'Cass, are you excited for the 6th? It's going to be a great day,'" Hutchinson testified. "I remember looking at him and saying, 'Rudy, could you explain what's happening on the 6th?' He responded something to the effect of, 'We're going to the Capitol. It's going to be great. The president's going to be there. He's going to look powerful. He's going to be with the [House] members, he's going to be with the senators. Talk to the chief about it. Talk to the chief about it. He knows about it.'"
When Hutchison recounted that conversation with Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff reportedly told her, "There's a lot going on, Cass. But I don't know. Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6."
"I recall hearing the word 'Oath Keeper' and hearing the word 'Proud Boys' closer to the planning of the January 6th rally when Mr. Giuliani would be around," Hutchinson later testified.
Robert Costello, Giuliani's lawyer, did not return an email and voicemail for this story.
The Sullivan Brothers
James Sullivan, whose information about his brother John made it to Giuliani shortly after the Jan. 6 attack, was actively involved in a far-right movement that gave him direct access to the Proud Boys leadership.
Joe Biggs, a national organizer for the Proud Boys, introduced James Sullivan at a rally organized by the far-right group in Portland, Ore., in late September 2020.
"I'm part of a patriot group that came up from Utah, the Proud Boys chapter," James Sullivan said at the rally. "The group that I'm part of is called Civilized Awakening I founded back when my brother, John Sullivan — he's antifa; he organized a protest where a shooting occurred in Provo — and that's when we started organizing the patriot movement in Utah.
"My brother, John Sullivan… he was a speed skater," James said later in the speech. "He started two third-party logistics companies. He was conservative. And they manipulated him when Black Lives Matter came to Utah. Now, he was at the DC capitol saying he was gonna pull the president out of office. That Black man, that was my brother. He was raised by Lt. Col. John Sullivan."
Cisneros, another Proud Boy, had also interacted with John Sullivan before Jan. 6, having spoken at a Jul. 2, 2020 rally in Provo that Sullivan organized. Pushing back against the perception that John Sullivan allowed him to speak at the rally, Cisneros recently posted a photo of himself speaking through a megaphone with Sullivan in the background on Instagram, accompanied by the text, "When I took over a #blm event in Provo, UT with #jaydenx in the background. #slutchapter #proudboy #disavowed for working with #blm. I don't take orders I give 'em."
Cisneros told Raw Story that he met the Sullivan brothers' adoptive father. He claimed his was the anonymized voice in the PsyOp the Steal documentary referencing a meeting with the father and two sons.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
On the eve of the attack on the Capitol, Rudy Giuliani and others set up what became known as a "war room" at the Willard Hotel, Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the January 6th Committee on Tuesday.
After law enforcement regained control of the Capitol and Congress reconvened with Vice President Mike Pence to complete the certification of the election on Jan. 6, Giuliani regrouped. His new task was helping to absolve Trump of responsibility for the attack, as the president faced a second impeachment trial.
Michael Trimarco, a New York businessman with a background in tech and finance, recommended Millie Weaver and Gavin Wince to Giuliani. Weaver, a former correspondent for the conspiracy theorist hub InfoWars, and her partner Wince had been staying at the Westin Arlington Gateway in rooms paid for by former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne since mid-November. They were part of a team that included Terpsehore "Tore" Maras and Patrick Bergy.
"When they finally met Rudy was Jan. 7," Trimarco told Raw Story. "The reason was because I felt the need to organize and collate… all the videos that were coming in from crowd sources. Millie and Gavin worked together. Tore has a lot of followers. They were sending stuff in. I said, 'These people would be good to pull all the video together."
Jason Funes, who worked on the Trump campaign in 2016 and 2020 — and worked in the US Department of the Interior from 2017 to 2019 — also contributed to the effort.
"Rudy Giuliani was being briefed by me in a group of people at the Willard Hotel on Jan. 8, and afterwards," Funes told the right-wing podcast Liberty Report podcast in November 2021. "I'm an expert witness, bro. I was the one at the Capitol building on video at sunset watching all these so-called Trump supporters. Listen, if antifa puts on a Trump hate, are they a Trump supporter?"
Following the attack on the Capitol, Funes texted photos of the driver's licenses of the Sullivan brothers' adoptive parents to a New Mexico man named Shawn Bradley Witzemann. In his text to Witzemann, Funes wrote, "Found these on the sidewalk."
Witzemann told Raw Story he doesn't believe that Funes actually found the photo IDs lying on the ground. "That was bogus," Witzemann said. "That's him being a smartass."
Witzemann hosted the Proud Boys-friendly podcast, "Armenian Council for Truth in Journalism." In it, he chronicled pro-Trump events in Washington, DC, Phoenix and Atlanta as a videographer.
One of Witzemann's clips captures an encounter with Funes, who is seen wearing a "Team Trump" shirt, on the evening of Nov. 14, 2020 in downtown Washington, DC, where the Proud Boys and other Trump supporters clashed with left-wing counter-protesters.
Witzemann was arrested in April 2021, and currently faces misdemeanor charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and other charges related to the Jan. 6 attack.
Witzemann said he interviewed Sullivan, alongside their fellow Jan. 6 arrestee Jesus Rivera, for a podcast, but did not expend much effort looking into Sullivan's father.
"I thought it was interesting for a minute," Witzemann said. "A lot of times you get led into a dead-end. What are you going to do?"
Asked how he obtained images of the driver's licenses belonging to the Sullivan brothers' parents and why he sent the pictures to Witzemann, Funes did not respond directly. In a prepared statement provided to Raw Story, Funes said, "Rudy Giuliani had DC hotels full of cohorts that were withholding vital information from President Trump and the entire federal government regarding Jan. 6 (including the IDs). In fact, Rudy, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, Roger Stone, Ali Alexander and others were culpable of spreading lies about foreign election interference to a sitting president and the entire world."
Flynn, Powell, Stone and Alexander could not be reached for comment about Funes' assertion.
Funes confirmed to Raw Story that he possesses a video interview with Cisneros that references the John Sullivan saga.
After helping Giuliani, Funes met with Kellye SoRelle, a former Texas prosecutor who eventually became the general counsel for the Oath Keepers. SoRelle was representing the president of Latinos for Trump, Bianca Gracia in a lawsuit when Gracia introduced her to Funes.
In an affidavit she shared on Twitter last November, SoRelle included a startling claim about the Cisneros video.
"I was contacted by a guy named Jason Funes," she wrote. "He came to visit me from Florida and brought me a video of a male by the name of xxxxx. Xxxxxx was explaining that he was in Utah and was associated with Jason and John Sullivan (Jayden X). John Sullivan is the individual who was with Ashli Babbitt when she was shot. Thad was being recorded stating that he flew to Washington, DC with Patrick Byrne and the Sullivan brothers, and that Patrick Byrne paid for the provocateurs to be at the capitol."
In an interview with Raw Story, Cisneros disputed SoRelle's claim, saying that Byrne "would have nothing to do with John." Cisneros added, "Patrick Byrne is someone I never had any involvement with. That guy had nothing to do with any of the flights that I took."
Funes also disputed SoRelle's account.
"Kellye SoRelle has taken a video out of context," he told Raw Story. "She didn't watch it in full, and is misrepresenting what Thad said, because that is not what Thad said in that video."
Raw Story has asked Funes to release the video. Funes indicated he was willing to consider the request but would need Cisneros' permission first.
Byrne told Raw Story he doesn't remember flying the Sullivan brothers or Cisneros to Washington, DC before Jan. 6, although he did not entirely rule it out as a possibility.
"Nope, never heard of the guys nor had anything to do with them and their projects," Byrne wrote in an email. "If that turns out to be incorrect, then it is because they were among many dozens whom in November and December who I was bringing to DC mostly for debriefing. The names of very few of those people have reached me. But neither of them ring a bell. And I do not recall helping anyone in around the J6 time. Just a month earlier."
In a text to Patrick Bergy, who was part of the team assisting Giuliani at the Willard Hotel, SoRelle suggested Funes had walked back his statement.
"So, the weird part is Jason changes his story," SoRelle said in the Jun. 1 text, which Bergy provided to Raw Story. "Originally, there was the Byrne flight stuff, which others still say… including another on the flight. But now Jason denies he said it."
In a follow-up text to Bergy, SoRelle said that Bianca Gracia, the president of Latinos for Trump, "told me the same."
SoRelle and Gracia were both present during a Jan. 5, 2021 meeting between Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes in an underground parking garage in Washington, DC. Tarrio and Rhodes are both in jail awaiting trial on charges of seditious conspiracy.
Byrne told Raw Story that he recalled agreeing to a request to fly 15 "pro-freedom Latinos from Texas" to DC for a rally in December 2020, although at that time, he said he did not know Gracia. He added that an unidentified reporter informed him that Tarrio and two to three other people on the flight were Proud Boys.
Byrne said he recently asked Gracia, with whom he is now acquainted, about the parking garage meeting.
"She told me that she knew Enrique for a long time, that he had worked for her before working for Proud Boys and before there even was a Proud Boys, as her state organizer and on her board of directors for Latinos for America," Byrne told Raw Story. (Since Jan. 6, Latinos for Trump has changed its name to Latinos for America First.)
In a Signal thread that included Byrne and Joe Flynn, the brother of retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, Gracia said she hadn't communicated with Cisneros since February 2021.
"He was a Proud Boy but got kicked out of Proud Boys 'cause he tried to make peace w Black Lives Matter people," Gracia wrote. "He also got involved with the Sullivan guy mentioned somehow. And rumor has it he was an informant. At this point, everyone is either an informant or domestic terrorist. I did not pick up Thad's call. I made him text me."
Responding to Gracia's statement, Joe Flynn wrote: "Kellye is crazy, likes to make s*** up."
SoRelle could not be reached for this story.
In the conversation recorded by Cisneros, Sullivan risibly claimed that his brother, James told him "the Italian mafia paid for everybody to fly out there." Steven Kiersh, Sullivan's lawyer, told RawStory that his client "is not under any circumstances to speak with any person other than myself about the case."
Gavin Wince, who was part of the team that assisted Giuliani's effort to collect video and analyze the Jan. 6 attack, told Raw Story that he knows who flew John and James Sullivan to DC, but won't say.
"I can't comment because that is witness tampering," Wince said. "A lot of this is executive privilege. We were working with Rudy Giuliani and the White House on this stuff.
"The information was gathered under an NDA on behalf of Rudy Giuliani for the benefit of Donald Trump," he added. "That was the only reason we were doing that… for the benefit of Donald Trump, because in our mind he's the president of the United States being framed."
Daniel Goldman, the former lead counsel for the House prosecution of Trump's first impeachment, told Raw Story that there's no such protection. Goldman's comment was provided in response to an inquiry for a previous story looking into a claim by Weaver that she could not comment because her work was covered by executive privilege and an NDA.
"There is no such thing as an NDA covered by executive privilege since executive privilege is not contractual," Goldman told Raw Story. "This person would not fall under executive privilege under any circumstance, and I can't imagine what NDA a 'journalist' signed with Trump. The fact of such an NDA would lead me to believe they are trying to cover up misconduct through a sham contract."
Robert Costello, Giuliani's attorney, has previously told Raw Story that his client did not issue any non-disclosure agreements to Weaver and her team and was unaware that any had been given. After looking into the matter, he reported that Giuliani's secretary sent the NDAs to one of Giuliani's security people, who distributed them to the team. Costello said he located Weaver's NDA and observed that it was not signed by Giuliani, adding that without two signatures, a contract has no legal force.
Informed that executive privilege wouldn't cover their work for Giuliani and that the NDAs are likely not legally binding, Wince still declined to elaborate on the Sullivan brothers' flights to DC, saying that his information came from sources who, if disclosed, would face retribution.
"The last thing we want to do is compromise that information if it's evidence," Wince said.
Wince told Raw Story that he and Weaver did not receive any compensation for their work from Giuliani.
"The only gift or benefit we received was being allowed to stay in hotel rooms that had already been pre-booked," he said. "I believe it was Patrick Byrne and Mike Trimarco that had booked whole floors." Wince added that some of their meals were paid for. He also acknowledged that Byrne covered the cost of airfare so that he and Weaver could fly to California to interview a "whistleblower" for a pro-Trump media project.
After receiving information from Weaver, Wince, Funes and others, Giuliani recorded his "Common Sense" podcast for Jan. 13, 2021, promising, "This episode is going to concern itself with what really happened on Jan. 6, 2021."
Giuliani presented John Sullivan as the poster child for his thesis that "antifa" was responsible for the attack on the Capitol, making a case that was only loosely based on fact.
"I guess I'll repeat the word 'antifa' so we can see the organization for which Sullivan is operating," Giuliani told his audience in a video posted on the Rumble platform that has received almost half a million views to date. "Now, just a brief background on Sullivan: Sullivan is a Black Lives Matter/antifa partisan person involved with them. Involved in riots before. If not the most prominent, the most recent was in July 2020. He was arrested for rioting in Provo, Utah, where a person was killed during that riot."
In addition to omitting the critical fact that Sullivan had been shunned by Black Lives Matter organizers, Giuliani's statement included another egregious error. The SUV driver shot during the protest in Provo did not die and launched a bid for Provo's mayor.
"Let's start with the fact that long before Donald Trump or anyone else gave a speech on Jan. 6, this violent protest reaction was being created by other than Donald Trump or Donald Trump partisans, but by antifa and an antifa representative and a professional at creating riots, including riots that resulted in death," Giuliani said. "John Sullivan."
Speaking to Raw Story just before the January 6th Committee hearing on Tuesday, Weaver rejected the claim that Trump and Giuliani planned the attack on the Capitol.
"I've seen the J6 Committee making wild accusations that Trump and Giuliani had premeditated Jan. 6," Weaver said. "To me, that seems so foreign. You get a feel for things when you're in the middle of it. The feeling for me is there wasn't a chance in hell they pre-planned and orchestrated anything of the sort. Really, it seems like afterwards everyone is just trying to figure out what the heck happened. It's alien or way out there to say Trump and his people around him pre-planned an event such as J6, which only served to hurt him. In no way did he benefit. The opposing side benefited greatly from that."
An hour later, under questioning from Vice-Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Cassidy Hutchinson would describe three "camps of thought" in the White House, telling the committee that her former boss, Mark Meadows, straddled the moderate and extreme camps. Although Hutchinson didn't mention Weaver — an outsider working to assist Giuliani after the fact — by name, her position could easily be described as aligning with the third view inside the White House.
"And there was the last group, which was 'deflect and blame,'" Hutchinson testified. "Let's blame antifa. These aren't our people."
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