Anger as Trump lawyer says Antifa leader was first Capitol rioter arrested and first to be let go

Michael T van Der Veen’s claim quickly and strongly debunked

Trump’s impeachment an ‘unjust and blatantly’ unconstitutional ‘witch-hunt’, ex-president’s lawyers say

Donald Trump’s lawyers sparked anger when they claimed that an Antifa leader was the first person arrested and released at the Capitol riot.

The ex-president’s defense team claimed that it was a “preposterous and monstrous lie” to say Mr Trump had incited the 6 January violence that left five people dead.

Instead, they claimed that the attack in Washington DC could be blamed on extremists, including “a leader of Antifa.”

“Tragically, as we know now, on 6 January a small group who came to engage in violent and menacing behavior hijacked the event for their own purposes,” said Michael T van Der Veen on Friday.

“According to publicly available reporting, it is apparent that extremists of various different stripes and political persuasions preplanned and premeditated an attack on the Capitol. 

“One of the first people arrested was a leader of Antifa.”

Mr Trump’s lawyer did not name the individual, but added, “sadly he was the first to be released.”

Utah activist John Sullivan, who founded an anti-police brutality group, was arrested at the Capitol and faces charges of civil disorder, being in a restricted area and disorderly conduct, according to reports.

He is among more than 200 people arrested and charged after the violence, but has denied any links to the Antifa movement.

The claims were mocked across social media.

“Who’s the alleged “Antifa” leader that got arrested in the insurrection? Interested, because Antifa doesn’t have leaders,” said @CharlesPPierce on Twitter.

“Trump’s ‘defense’ lawyer just started and is already calling for ‘Antifa’ to be prosecuted. What a disgrace,” tweeted Democratic congressman Bill Pascrell Jr.

During his opening remarks, Mr van der Veen defended the former president against the charges made by House impeachment managers.

“No thinking person could seriously believe that the president’s 6 January speech on the Ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection,” he said.

“The suggestion is patently absurd on its face.”

And he claimed that at Mr Trump’s rally before the violence was unleashed, the ex-president was in fact asking for the legal process to play out.

“The entire premise of (Trump’s) remarks was that the democratic process would and should play out according to the letter of the law, including both the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act,” he said.

“In the conclusion of his remarks, he then laid out a series of legislative steps that should be taken to improve democratic accountability going forward, such as passing universal voter ID legislation, banning ballot harvesting, requiring proof or citizenship to vote and turning out strong in the next primaries. 

“These are not the words of someone inciting a violent insurrection.

“To claim that the president wished, desired or encouraged lawless behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie.”

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